Pedal Power for Cleaner Air
Amit Gupta, CEO, Yulu Bikes, is a mechanical engineer and serial entrepreneur. After working with hot startups, he started Analyticsworks, a company that offered a platform for business intelligence focused on media, retail and commerce. Later, fascinated by the exponential growth of mobile phones, he co-founded the mobile marketing and advertising platform provider InMobi, reckoned to be India’s first profitable internet unicorn. Yulu is his newest startup, because he “wanted to solve a social problem that can make a positive impact. Yulu is an attempt to solve traffic congestion and air pollution in big cities of India.” Asked about his journey to serial entrepreneurship, he tells Sandhya Mendonca, “I grew up in a family where practically everyone was involved in business. From childhood, I saw the value that entrepreneurship could bring to solving problems and in creating self-reliance. I also believed that technology plays a big role in bringing higher efficiency and hence bigger impact. Even when I began my career as a technologist, I had a clear aim of starting something on my own. And once you become an entrepreneur, you remain one for life; so becoming a serial entrepreneur was not surprising.”
It’s back to basics as more Indians discover that cycling for short commutes within cities can be efficient, affordable and green, while making their cities more liveable.
With a smart network of dockless cycle-sharing powered by GPRS, GPS and Bluetooth technologies, Bengaluru-based Yulu has quickly become a leading urban mobility company in India and is solving traffic congestion and air pollution.
Amit Gupta hit upon the idea of launching Yulu, when he was troubled by the growing traffic congestion in IT capital Bengaluru and the consequent pollution. “Air pollution is causing a huge issue in our overall healthcare system. India now is officially the most polluted country in the world. Our air quality in 10x worse than the permissible safe limits, so it is a very critical need of the hour”, he says.
The launch objective was simple: to decongest urban traffic by providing a scalable, affordable, efficient and clean solution for the first mile, last mile and short distance commute. In other words, provide sustainable mobility in ever-growing urban areas. What also prompted him was the study published in The Lancet which presented some alarming data. The study estimated that in 2017 air pollution killed 1.24 million Indians — half of them younger than 70. This also lowered the country’s average life expectancy by 1.7 years.
Along with RK Mishra, Hemant Gupta and Naveen Dachuri, all serial entrepreneurs, Amit founded Yulu Bikes in 2017 with the avowed objective of aligning the Yulu bike with priorities like clean air, green cover, efficient and affordable mobility. Powered by the Internet of Things, the bikes can be rented and returned, using an app and payments are made through a secure digital wallet.
Today, Yulu bikes are operational in Bengaluru, Pune, Bhubaneshwar and Mumbai. In November 2018 alone, 45 percent of Yulu bike users took two or more rides on the same day, according to the promoters. Additionally, the company’s unique approach of involving large corporates and local municipal corporations in the cause has helped in creating infrastructure support. With over half a million app installs and a growing ecosystem of users powered largely by word of mouth, Yulu is looking to expand its user base.
According to Amit, “Yulu has been able to build a seamless and scalable platform for micro-mobility. We have been able to make a real impact in home-to-work commute in four cities in India during the last 12 months and strongly believe that a short commute mode can be made more efficient, affordable and green for future generations.”
Yulu Bikes seeks to replace big fuel guzzling personal vehicles with a smaller one that does not require fossil fuels. This environmental concern apart, the Yulu Bike company believes that sustainable mobility within Indian cities, where economic activity is concentrated, is critical to the country’s GDP. Indian cities thus need to be liveable. This ties in well with an oft-expressed concern that if a city’s mobility is not efficient, it will directly impact productivity and consequently, the country’s growth rate. In fact, in India ‘s case many of its cities are already facing the tag of being the most polluted anywhere.
Significantly, today the Yulu bike is perceived as a brand that is solving a big social problem with Inc42, Young Turks, Financial Express, AirCTO, Karnataka Govt’s Elevate, SmartCEO and Angel List identifying it as among the best startups in India. Yulu was also selected as one of the Top 11 technology startups in India to work for in 2019.
This is not to say that there were no hiccups, but these were overcome with the support of investors, the government and followers.
Having launched an environment-friendly bicycle with appropriate gadgets, the company has plans up its sleeve by way of new products. As the available trend indicates, 2019 could well be a transformative year for micro-mobility in India in view of the existing opportunities and the potential for environment-friendly vehicles which keep the concern for nature alive. The company proposes to extend its fleet with future-ready electric two-wheelers in the coming days.