Ahmedabad-based ‘MyByk’, a six-year old bicycle sharing and renting start-up, is set to begin operations along the Kochi Metro route in Kerala from March 1.
“We have won a tender with Kochi Metro. We will be inaugurating the project in Kochi with 1,000 bicycles on March 1. They are giving us a capital subsidy of Rs 1 crore,” said Arjit Soni, founder of the MyByk project that is managed by Greenpedia Bike Share Private Limited.
“We are starting out with 60 bicycle stations in Kochi. Of these, 22 will cover the metro route, while the remaining will be secondary stations that will help commuters use bicycles on an hourly basis or for short transits,” Soni said.
The Ahmedabad-based firm currently operates more than 5,500 bicycles in total, 3,000 of which are in Ahmedabad. It operates 200 bicycles as a pilot project with Mumbai Metro and is currently managing 250 bicycles centred around Fatehsagar lake in Udaipur, Rajasthan.
The firm began its services by providing bicycles on rent to commuters of the Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) in Ahme-dabad. The idea to begin a bicycle sharing start-up came from Soni’s commuting experiences in Mumbai during 2007-’10, when Ahmedabad cycle renting start-up to begin operations for Kochi Metro he used cycles to access local trains between Andheri and Dadar. In 2011, he moved back to Ahmedabad to join his father’s chartered accountancy practice.
“I always had a deep desire to create a social impact business. While working for my father, I kept toying with this idea whenever I had the time. In 2013, I thought I should propose this idea to the government and used my father’s network to get a chance to meet Narendra Modi when he was the chief minister. To my utter surprise, he was very receptive to a 24-year-old,” Soni said while explaining the venture’s roots.
Subsequently, an ambitious pilot project involving 1,000 bicycles — providing last mile connectivity to BRTS riders in Ahmedabad — was launched on June 5, 2014. “We hardly achieved utilisation of the bicycles in the first years of the company… The idea did not click, it was a tough period,” said Soni who received the initial seed capital for the venture from his father’s business circle.
To ensure cash flow, the start-up venture had tapped campuses and tied up with the Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Space Applications Centre (SAC) in Ahmedabad to operate 50 bicycles inside its campus. In the subsequent two months, the number of cycles operating within the SAC campus rose to 150. “Two years down the line, they renewed the contract with 500 bicycles. That was our first big success,” he recalled.
The start-up venture then began operating bicycles within Adani Shantigram (100 bicycles) and the Reliance refinery at Jamnagar (1,200 bicycles). The company now operates bicycles at industrial campuses in Dahej, Bharuch and Vadodara, too.
“The biggest turnaround happened when we got an opportunity at Sabarmati Riverfront in 2016. We were skeptical and started operations with only 10 cycles,” said Soni. However, the start-up scaled down the entry barrier (deposit amount) from Rs 3,000 to Rs 500 and added hourly rental to the existing monthly rental of bicycles. Today, there are 500 MyByks operating on the riverfront. “We have also piloted operations in Rajkot and currently have one station in the district with 70 bicycles,” he added.
How does MyByk work?
Users would have to download the MyByk mobile application, create an account and sign in. They may unlock their bicycle from any station using the application. Users can then ride the bicycle and return at the same station or another station.
Rental charges automatically get deducted from the users’ wallets, depending on the plan selected before commencing the ride. MyByk bicycles are also equipped with radio frequency identification systems and the rental charged from the customers includes bicycle repairs and maintenance.