Are bike taxis a perfect mobility solution amid Covid-19 crisis?

According to data from PGA Labs, the bike taxi service market is estimated at $150 million and is growing at 20% month-over-month.

December 24, 2020 4:44 PM


In a developing country like India, with the second wave of COVID-19 already making its inroads in many cities, the only solution to bridge the urbanization gap and answer the need for an effective and affordable transport are bike taxis. 2020 has been an eye-opener of a year. From the choice of going out of the house to the preferred transport option, there is a steadily rising behavioral change in the customers that is being witnessed. The rapid spread of the novel Coronavirus has not only made us relearn maintaining cleanliness but has also made us decidedly cautious and doubtful of sanitization checks around us especially when we are outside our homes.

With the reopening of offices and businesses and lack of trains and buses, there is a rising need for safe mode of public transportation to support more than 80% of the people who are dependent on these modes for commute. In cities where the local trains are still closed to most of the public and where the buses have reduced their frequency of trips, there is an even bigger need that needs to be addressed immediately.

While concerned about safety and cleanliness, the customers travelling by buses and trains are looking for an affordable means of transportation as owning a vehicle or taking a cab every day is out of question for most. In such a situation, bike taxis have become the preferred mode of commute that provide the benefits of a safe, affordable and efficient mobility option and is available on demand.

The urban challenge

For a country of estimated 1.3 billion people and more, the urban infrastructure is already at a breaking point and needs an urgent call to transform the existing system to meet the demands of the cities in the present and for the future. As mobility suppleness has become a key dynamic in the rapid transformation of Indian cities, addressing issues like first and last-mile connectivity, optimization of existing capacity, feasibility of varied transportation modes and safety demand have also become critical. How do we address these critical needs?

India has one of the world’s largest 2W owners, and it is observed that most of the time, the pillion seats are empty. With this observation in mind, bike taxis became a solution to not only provide the last mile connectivity option to the commuters but the utilization of the empty pillion seats has also become a mode to generate employment opportunity. According to data from PGA Labs, the bike taxi service market is estimated at $150 million and is growing at 20% month-over-month. The growth has been possible mainly due to the consumer’s need for affordable means of transportation and closing the last mile connectivity gap.

The business model of bike taxi players largely depends on tapping the large pool of two-wheeler owners in the country. The idea is to utilise the already present infrastructure to decongest traffic on roads and ensure an extra income for the owner of the two-wheeler as well.

Bike Taxis are addressing the need of the hour as it costs almost as much as a bus or train ride and are quicker than cars, during peak hours. They have the advantage of minimum touch points compared to cab sharing as there are no doors to open or close. On average, If a bike taxi ride costs INR 60-70, for the same distance a cab ride costs INR 200. Because bike taxis are more affordable than cabs and can zip through congested roads, they are popular among millennials. Bike Taxi companies started seeing a 40% demand recovery by the end of August, and in some cities like Delhi and Guwahati, the demand was back to its pre-COVID levels.

Regulations in Bike Taxis

Bike-sharing makes public transport infeasible for shorter journeys and opens up markets for micro-mobility in India. First and last-mile connectivity for a long time have been of concern in most of the states and continue to be so. The concept of a bike taxi is relatively new in India and continues to have a certain perception attached to it. There are cultural and societal challenges like sitting behind a stranger, rider safety etc. which continues to become a hurdle for its success in India. Over the years, the benefits of riding a bike taxi, have overcome the cultural and societal challenges, leading to its popularity now.

The Indian government has recently announced the National Urban Transport Policy (NUTP) focusing on urban transportation. NUTP has voiced the need for states to adopt technology in mobility space today. India is the world’s largest two-wheeler market (2 crores plus sold in 2018 – 60000 daily), and this undisputedly happens to be the preferred mode of transport to and from work. Not to mention the rural stretches and narrow by-lanes of cities where bikes are a lifeline, thereby making the role of bike taxis even more critical.

Future of mobility is Bike Taxi 

According to a recent Zinnov-TiE Delhi NCR report, the mobility sector will recover soon. 2W ride-sharing is recovering faster than 4W ride-sharing. Most 2W ride-sharing companies are expected to completely recover from the impact of the pandemic by the end of the year, which is a testimony to the rising demand and acceptance of bike taxis in the country as an end to end or at least a first and last-mile option.

An ideal transportation policy for any city should take all forms of transport that can best be deployed according to the demand, supply, and local challenges into consideration. The micro mobility industry has a vast potential to grow as a large portion of the market is still to adopt and get hooked to the new ease in travelling.

The benefits of Bike -Taxi during the time of the ongoing pandemic cannot be ignored. It will help tackle India’s economic crisis and the health crisis in the pandemic and beyond. It is not only viable, safe, and affordable transport option for the masses, but it is also the answer for the mobility problem during COVID-19. We need to keep the country moving, and bike-taxi has the potential to do just that.

Author – Aravind Sanka, Co-Founder, Rapido

Disclaimer – The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the original author. These views and opinions do not represent those of The Indian Express Group or its employees.

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