Aiming for 100,000 Rides a Day from Our e-bike Taxis: Pillion
'My company’s name is Promto E-ventures Pvt. Limited. And we have a brand called ‘Pillion’ where we run electric bike taxis. It was floated in the year April 2016.'
Pillion is the country’s first e-bike taxi service which aims to eliminate the problems of last mile connectivity in the city and gradually across the country. While interacting with BW Businessworld, Karan Chadha, its Co-Founder maintains that the company is confident of doing 100,000 rides a day in the next few years. Below are the edited excerpts:
Please tell us the genesis of this company
My company’s name is Promto E-ventures Pvt. Limited. And we have a brand called ‘Pillion’ where we run electric bike taxis. It was floated in the year April 2016. We are completely on a green platform and are the only company which has such a business model in Delhi. This idea basically came up during the first odd even (in Delhi). The problems we discerned during that time were on last mile connectivity from the metro station to the office or one’s residence. Our average ride is about 2kms (per trip). So the ideology that we are following in this company is how to connect that person to go his last two kilometres i.e. Point A to Point B, whether it is his house to the metro or vice versa. We wanted to create a system where a person can trust the brand to take them with security and surety with a pre-set price in mind. The first year was a pilot testing phase where we did around 1 lakh rides. As we attain size and scale, we will be launching our own app.
What is the profile of your customers? And how much do you charge from them?
Although male commuters account for the maximum chunk at 80% (of the total ones), the remaining 20% female riders prefer to be driven by male drivers. Also, 10% of our drivers are females. Initially we thought the genre that we would be targeting would be medium to lower segment of the market. What we eventually realised that it really doesn’t matter what pay grade a person is from. Eventually it boils down to time saving. For example, currently we are catering to two areas. One is at Karol Bagh Metro station and the other is Jhandewalan Metro Station. While the former caters to a hyperlocal market, the latter is for more sophisticated commuters who are office goers or those going to temples. What we realised is that there is equivalent demand on both areas. We charge Rs. 20 for the first two km and Rs. 5 for every additional km.
Why have you restricted yourself to select pockets in Delhi and have not expanded your operations to satellite cities like Gurgaon, Noida etc.?
If I had the financial wherewithal, I would have easily deployed 5,000 e-bikes at various metro stations in Delhi. But we are a bootstrapped company. We want to grow in a way where we can give the best service possible. I have to whet drivers and have to make sure that the e-bikes are well inspected. These are not typical (petrol-driven) bikes and are range deficient. We are serving the pockets where taking a car is a herculean task. So we believe in the optimum utilisation of resources. We are moving next to Chandni Chowk and then to Delhi University, at North Campus. We are also in talks with (authorities at) Saket as well. But we don’t want to get into the aggregation mode where we can lose focus over our drivers. We own our own bikes and intend to give a better service in the market and make it more secure. Once we attain economies of scale, we can expand our base to multiple locations especially at metro stations.
How many e-bikes are there in your fleet and what kind of products do you prefer?
We have three different bikes currently and are also looking at expanding to other brands. At present, we are running a count of 60 e-bikes out of which we do e-commerce deliveries as well. We have sourced these made-in-India bikes from many OEMs like Hero, Okinawa, Ampere, etc. My average buying price would be Rs. 55,000 per product and a major chunk is sourced from Ampere.
Unlike other start-ups like Ola or Oyo, why have you gone asset-heavy in your business?
Our bikes are not financed. Electric bikes are still at a very nascent stage and nobody wants to really buy into it. If somebody doesn’t jump in and really pushes (for) it and puts their own money where their mouth is, it is never really going to pick up. We have bought these bikes simply because a person needs to have the confidence in a technology before they can put the money in it. Moreover, it gives me a lot more control, at least initially, to know exactly what is happening. We are open to franchise our business provided our certain terms and conditions are met. We are open to expand to other big cities like Bombay, Bangalore, Kolkata, etc., which are densely populated.
As per your business model, you have only added two-wheelers in your fleet. Going forward, would you be interested in having zero-emission three-wheelers and four-wheelers in your fleet?
We were looking at aggregating three-wheelers as there are about 1 lakh e-rickshaws plying on the roads with 50% of them being licensed ones. We will opt for licensed e-rickshaws which are legal. We may not own these vehicles but would facilitate our services to someone who already own these e-rickshaws. I will basically create an ecosystem wherein a family can travel from point A to point B in a zero-emission vehicle. We are also looking at four-wheelers in the long term.
Will you look to expand beyond the domestic market?
Yes, there are certain cities outside India like in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, etc., which are hyperlocal similar markets where we are holding talks. However, we will only go for the franchisee model there.
What is your vision for the company? Have you set any further targets with your business models?
My vision or mission for this company (is that) when someone gets off (the metro) and has to go for last mile connectivity and calls up his friend and asks (him) where to go, he (his friend) just turns around and say ‘Go for Pillion’. We want to be synonymous with last mile connectivity. We have done 2 lakh rides on our 30-odd bikes until now. If today I am able to do 500-600 rides a day with 30 people (drivers), I can do 100,000 rides a day with 3,000 riders (drivers) a day.
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