Yulu founder Amit Gupta believes bicycle sharing is the next big thing.
Samreen Ahmad reports from Bengaluru.
After running InMobi, one of India's most successful Unicorns for over 10 years, co-founder Amit Gupta had a different calling last year.
He had just turned 40 and wanted to retire.
But then he had second thoughts, and the entrepreneurial bug in him felt retiring that early would be way too boring.
The serial investor, who has so far invested in about 30 startups, including RazorPay, Wooplr and LetsVenture, wanted to pursue something that could contribute towards solving two of the major societal issues that cut across all strata of the society and affect everybody, rich or poor.
"Traffic and air pollution are twin problems that treat everyone equally. Even Mukesh Ambani will have to pass through the same traffic and breathe the same air which everyone else breathes," says Gupta.
He pondered upon these two problems and came up with a common thread that links the two and solves them simultaneously -- bicycle sharing.
Gupta, who himself travels to work on bicycle, noticed that the distance that took him about seven minutes to cover in Bengaluru five years ago, now took around 40 minutes.
A mechanical engineer from IIT-Kanpur who did not take the path of a cushy job but chose to become an entrepreneur, hailing as he did from a business family, Gupta felt if he could make people switch from cars to bicycles to travel shorter distances, it would transform the future into a greener tomorrow.
"If we can move people to sustainable transportation, our cities will be cleaner and much more walkable," he feels.
Hence, Yulu, a bicycle-sharing startup that provides short distance solutions, came into being in 2017.
Yulu, he says, means 'simple' in Chinese.
This underlines the fact that "every problem should have a simple solution", he quickly adds.
Yulu bikes are a futuristic set of wheels, with QR codes, anti-theft features, and GPS trackers.
The bikes are helping solve the problem of last-mile connectivity on shorter distances, from zero to five kilometres.
So if you want to get from your house to the metro station to catch a train to work, you won't need to book a cab and get stuck in long traffic snarls.
All you need to do, instead, is to pick up a Yulu bike from one of the startup's depots, which you can unlock by scanning the QR code on the bike and ride short distances at a cost of Rs 10 for 30 minutes.
And once you are done, you can deposit the bike at the depot closest to your destination.
Yulu has partnered with authorities like Bangalore Metro and civic bodies to get dedicated parking space.
However, you need to park only at the designated parking places in order to end the trip.
Payment is deducted directly from digital wallets such as Paytm.
"There is no commerce company in India which is a daily habit. We see Yulu becoming a daily habit company for about 100 million people in the country," says Gupta, who feels micro-mobility is the next big trend in the startup ecosystem.
Yulu is currently running only pedal bicycles, but come January 2019, it would be launching compact electric bikes designed by the company and built in China.
These would cost the company around Rs 40,000 apiece, but offer greater comfort to riders, as they would be running on battery power creating zero pollution, says Gupta.
There are also plans to launch the e-bikes in Delhi to tackle the air pollution menace the city faces every year.
Currently, the company is live in Bengaluru and Pune, with about 1,000 parking depots and 5,000 bicycles.
The company is launching almost 200 depots every month to cater to the rising demand.
Yulu has also tied up with big real estate giants such as Prestige and Salarpuria, to station their bicycles at tech parks and encourage employees to cut down on the use of cars.
In the next growth phase, it is looking at tying up with the transportation departments of different states for building more depots and new bicycle tracks across different cities.