Yulu Bikes has taken the harder path, which required us to build things that were not there. We went after creating an electric mobility ecosystem for India, and ended up building a new vehicle category—micro mobility—with the Yulu Miracle.
It is a purpose-built vehicle that required us to first work with an overseas company to build it as per our design. That vehicle helped us convince Rajiv Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Auto, to assemble it for us in India. Since then, he has agreed to make a world-class vehicle for Yulu Bikes.
Bajaj Auto has done a lot of work on this vehicle, which will look very different. It will be safer, more comfortable, durable and beautiful. This is the mandate Rajiv has given to his team.
We have seen early prototypes and it looks very, very cool. The Bajaj partnership has been transformative for our journey.
This has been an evolution for Yulu—learnings from our bicycle, to a product which is neither a bicycle nor a scooter. The Yulu Miracle was a hybrid, where the vehicle was small and created for shared mobility. It can be used in a tough environment, so even with rough use, it is ready for work. Those were the nuances of the two-wheeler for shared mobility.
Currently, we have 10,000 electric scooters, making us the largest shared EV company in the country. Apart from Bengaluru, we are in Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. From vehicle and battery design to charging stations network and policies, we started solving for the problems step by step with our engineering efforts.
For our work, there was no ready-made staff. So apart from the central team of 170 employees, Yulu Bikes has a technical staff of 400 people who help us with repair and maintenance, battery swaps, and to keep the vehicles ready. They are trained at the Yulu Academy in three weeks for a Yulu pilot, which is all about performing tasks with respect to repairs and preparing them for redistribution to new locations, etc.
If we need to give a promise to customers with our quality and service, we want to assure them of a staff that has an emotional bond with Yulu. This is not possible with a gig economy approach.
If you ask me what we are as a company, sure we are a mobility company. But every function of what we do is led by data. Where should the vehicles be at 8 AM? The answers are coming from data on demand trends.
We get a lot of hotspots when supply exceeds demand. To match demand and supply better, Yulu has the ability to move vehicles from low-demand zones to high-demand zones. This is all happening because of data, creating tasks for my team that pick and drop vehicles based on demand.
Battery is also an important element, where we swap batteries based on predictive analytics. We know how much a battery will give in terms of distance. Similarly, we also do predictive maintenance where sensors help us identify which components are due for replacement.
This is where repair and maintenance is going to move to India's shared electric platforms. The vehicles are smart and connected, which helps us in designing better customer experiences. Data is actually the core to make better decisions for customer satisfaction and improving profitability.
Our IP will always be in creating the electric mobility platform. The manufacturing part won’t be core for Yulu because it is a specialised skill. We are better off working with experts and capable partners, where our role is to bring data-led insights on shared mobility and make it the best combination.
In that respect, Bajaj Auto is very committed to our vision. When we talk about mobility in our country, it will be led by two-wheelers turning to electric energy. Bajaj Auto, Rajiv (Bajaj) and the board feel deeply about this. And they saw us when we were a very young company. They have a hunger to innovate—in a sense, an anti-car company—and want to co-innovate a world-class vehicle for Yulu.
With their global network, Yulu can be taken to other countries. More than the money, it is their wisdom on two-wheeler mobility. Also, with the backing of KTM Bikes, they have access to very sophisticated electric mobility technologies.
In the next five or 10 years, we should have approximately million-plus vehicles running in India on Yulu platform. For the next 12 months, we want to grow our fleet by five or seven times of the current scale in 2021. The proportion of the asset from Bajaj Auto will depend on which quarter they are ready with the product. But positively by 2022, their electric two-wheeler will be ready for Yulu.
(As told to Kunal Talgeri)
Amit Gupta is co-founder and CEO of Yulu Bikes, a Bengaluru-based startup that owns a dockless bike sharing platform, and runs bicycles and lithium battery powered electric two-wheelers.