With over 1 m users and 6 m trips, Oye! Rickshaw is solving micro-mobility issues for Bharat

Headquartered in New Delhi, Oye! Rickshaw is an app-based platform for first and last-mile connectivity. The start-up claims to be the largest e-Rickshaw aggregator in India with a fleet of over 6,000 e-rickshaws in Delhi NCR and Karnal. Oye! Rickshaw’s services help people get easy and affordable access to public transport, e.g. metro stations in Delhi. The company boasts of 1,036,849 registered users and a team of 230 employees supporting the operations. Initially bootstrapped in 2017, Oye! Rickshaw raised $12 million till now.

We caught up with co-founders Mohit Sharma and Akashdeep Singh to find out more.

1. How do Oye! Rickshaw’s services help a common commuter?

Only about 1 in 5 people in India owns a vehicle, thus we hugely rely on public transport. India has about 100M daily public transport commuters. The reach to public transportation hubs is not convenient for everyone, and there are prevalent first and last-mile problems. We are focusing on this pain point of daily commuters.

The key value proposition is the focus on affordability and convenience so that everyone has access to efficient mobility. Oye! Rickshaw, through its shared electric rickshaws, provides the most affordable and convenient way for the inner-city commute. 

2. How do Oye! Rickshaw’ services help make its drivers’ life better?

Our driver partners are crucial to our business and we are focused on improving NET take home. By its nature, the ride operations peak during office times. Our delivery service helps to supplement driver earnings during the off-peak hours. We not only provide them with higher income but also reduce their operating cost by providing energy solutions. Additionally, we offer benefits such as medical insurance and timely pay-out mechanisms that beat industry standards. Overall we have always pushed for the financial security of our driver-partners. Also, in order to improve their day’s productivity, we offer battery swapping services to them to get a fully charged battery in under 2 mins.

Covid has taught us that while we are an end-customer focused organization, our true customers are our drivers. When a significant migrant driver population was leaving Delhi to go back to their native towns, most of our drivers stayed back and continued to ply. This was because, by adding delivery as a service, we ensured that their livelihood was taken care of. In fact, July to September 2020 saw the highest number of driver enrolment ever for Oye! Rickshaw.

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3. What are the main challenges you found in running an EV fleet (that you wouldn’t encounter with an ICE fleet)?

The biggest challenge that EV fleets face is the lack of standardization and EV infrastructure. This is similar to the problems faced by ICE vehicles a hundred years ago. Most manufacturers are developing very good products but in isolation. For instance, there is no standardization in the battery used, the charging ports of different vehicles are different. Such challenges make EVs expensive to buy and maintain, which is contrary to the fundamentals of EVs as they are meant to be cheaper to maintain. An ICE vehicle can be refuelled in minutes whereas it takes EV hours to charge, this is because our current charging and battery tech are not competitive enough to match the ICE vehicle refuelling numbers.

4. How do you manage the charging of your vehicles to ensure maximum time on the road?

Currently, through our well-connected EV charging partner ecosystem, we enable charging points for our e-rickshaws. However, we are piloting battery-as-a-service system that will transform the way our fleet recharges. The initial feedback has been overwhelming and we hope to implement it at scale soon. When implemented it will ensure minimal downtime and therefore increased earnings for our driver-partners.

5. What are your plans for scale-up and expansion?

We are currently operating in 5 cities and our expansion so far has been around Delhi. Our next expansion locations are going to be those where there is good penetration of e-rickshaws to ensure that we can engage with a maximum number of e-rickshaws drivers. Oye! Rickshaw has been continuously investing in building its network and range of offerings and today has a tried and tested model that can be replicated at scale. We will be looking at increasing penetration in cities we are currently operational as well as expand to new cities that have a higher e-rickshaw acceptance. Our mission is to take our product to all 2.5M e-Rickshaw drivers in India.

6. What are your recommendations for EV manufacturers?

Few things that the EV manufacturers should focus on: standardization, innovation, collaboration, and ecosystem building. EV manufacturers should see the space in the context of how mobility will transform over the next 5 to 10 years. They should not focus on building EVs as a subset of the ICE mobility industry but in fact as a replacement to it.

7. What are your recommendations for policymakers? What else can be done to ease EV penetration in India?

The EV infrastructure needs to be developed to instil more confidence in the EV buyer. Charging stations should be set up in public parking places, providing dedicated parking for EVs, there should be a proper charging network on highways and a conversion plan of petrol pumps to charging stations should be designed. Many Governments are already working in this direction. 

Also, India does not have any significant Li reserves and this is a raw material for making batteries, which is imported from other countries. The tax levied on this material should be reduced to push the EV costs even lower making them more affordable for the buyers. 

Currently, the batteries being supplied in most EV vehicles are either lead-acid batteries or Li-ion batteries. There is no proper policy for the disposal of these batteries and if not done well, it can lead to a new hazard in the coming time. Careful policies need to be designed around this.

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