By Ananth Chandramouli
Technology in transport has given rise to new forms of flexible, on-demand mobility services. Post COVID, there is a unique opportunity to shape the future of mobility, accelerate innovations and to redefine mobility strategies and practices to achieve the goal of sustainable and human-centric mobility systems.
The COVID pandemic has accelerated the need for multimodal integrated intelligent transport systems (ITS), including integrated ticketing, payments, and real-time passenger information. With passenger mobility demand now picking up, the culmination of seamless confluence of multiple modes of mobility, facilitating environmentally friendly and high-volume movement, is inevitable.
Of late, the concept of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) has emerged strongly in the mobility domain. As an important ingredient in the future of mobility, advancement in MaaS could be an opportunity for India to take the lead in the urban mobility space. Ultimately, customer experience will be the most critical aspect in the mobility space, driving Mobility-as-an-Experience (MaaX) to reality.
The question is: does the country have the capability and wherewithal to leapfrog in this area, just as it did in Telecom and FinTech?
The journey from MaaS to MaaX
The scope of MaaS cuts across e-mobility and autonomous driving. Typically, public transport, self-service vehicles, on-demand transport, or car sharing have applications for their own services; MaaS aggregates them all on a single platform.
MaaS could potentially increase the usage of public or shared transportation – achieved through various means including smart ticketing and real-time traffic / passenger data analysis. It promotes collaboration between public and private operators in creating a platform where all mobility needs of an individual are met. ‘Connectivity’ is the differentiator in MaaS.
However, MaaX goes beyond just connectivity and anchors itself around ‘Customer Experience.’ Coined by the Paris transport operator (RATP) in its successful MaaS experiment, MaaX is expected to be the real future of mobility.
MaaX goes beyond just being a ‘mobility aggregator’ – from planning, access to different modes of transport, vehicular facilities, reservations, etc., – but also encourages users to use alternate modes, monitors unforeseen events real-time, proposes alternative solutions for last-mile connectivity, and recommends long-term sustainable mobility options contextualized to an individual.
Prospects and challenges in India
To examine the feasibility of MaaX in India, one must examine the readiness of various participating entities – technology players, transportation operators, vehicle manufacturers, energy providers, government, and the consumers. We should also examine the challenges and benefits in implementing it in India especially as a sustainable model for the future.
In India, one cannot overlook the pervasiveness of cultural practices and attitudes. People’s thinking about ownership are unlikely to change fast because having a personal vehicle (2 or 4-wheeler) is desired by many. The socio-economic character of its people cannot compare with that of a city-state like Singapore, with strict vehicle ownership rules and mobility regulations.
COVID has accelerated this notion of using personalised mode of transport for oneself and families. For example, when one start-up launched its electric two-wheeler, it recorded one lakh bookings on the first day. This says something about the concerns around the pandemic, environmental awareness, and the choice for personal mobility among larger population.
However, there is a rapid shift in the mindset of the newer generation towards not owning a personal vehicle. While there is customer readiness for shared mobility, are people beyond the millennial generation (which is technologically and culturally enabled for MaaS) ready for it?
Why India can win the mobility race …
India’s urban population will see 57% growth from 2011 to 2036. The country registered around 300 million vehicles since 2019. The concept of MaaX could just click if it is built as a Super App that provides a range of product plus service offerings, especially if developed as a truly connected platform amongst government, businesses, and consumers.
While en masse implementation may not be workable for 1.3 billion people, the way forward could be to develop the concept in stages – first in metros, across specific areas of transport, a select few smart cities, etc.
India has the technology wherewithal to implement MaaX. With a large population using personal vehicles, plus a large percentage using public transport, India’s shared mobility market will see a growth rate of 56.8% CAGR between 2020 and 2025, according to a Research & Markets study. Revenue generated through such services across is expected to increase from $1 billion in 2019 to almost $4 billion by 2025.
Finally, the COVID pandemic has opened possibilities to try new measures, including restricted vehicle use. The hybrid work model prevalent in urban cities and increased public acceptance of change lowers the risk for authorities to drive innovate mobility initiatives. Both government authorities and private players could leverage this to accelerate the transition to sustainable mobility.
The evolution of mobility in India could well constitute a rare and unpredictable technological revolution like the UPI payments system – once viewed with scepticism but now the cynosure of the world! India could well and truly be all set for the mobility revolution!
Author is Managing Director, India Business Unit, Capgemini.
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