China's leading bicycle sharing platform Ofo bikes is making an entry into the Indian market through a partnership with the authorities in Pune to support the city's plan to promote cycle riding to curb the use of vehicles.
The Alibaba-backed firm has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pune Municipal Corporation, which is working on a bicycle master plan for the city. Ofo's entry comes soon after India's largest ride hailing service Ola launched its bicycle sharing platform Pedal.
"Our station-free bike-sharing concept has improved transportation in cities across the world. Our mission is to solve the 'last mile' transportation problem in India's urban areas and we see immense potential in Pune for Ofo's convenient, affordable and low carbon way of travel," said Rajarshi Sahai, director of public policy and communications at Ofo.
While the city of Pune will build the infrastructure to support bicycle riding by citizens, the authorities have reached out to private players such as Ofo to provide the bicycles themselves. Through the joint efforts of the government and companies, the aim is to reduce vehicular pollution, noise pollution and reduce congestion on streets.
Pune is the first Indian city to come up with such a model where both public and private partners come together to boost bicycle use. Karnataka has taken a crack at starting its own bike sharing platform Trin Trin but its plan does not include the development of the necessary infrastructure. The state is now looking to fix that as well.
"Pune's approach to have global bicycle sharing operators bring in the bicycles while the city builds infrastructure and parking to meet deployment is an example of role clarity for the public and private sector. We are delighted by the support we have received here and we do plan to deploy in Pune soon," Sahai said.
Ofo is among the largest bicycle sharing services in the world, having a presence in over 250 cities across 20 countries. The company claims to have over 200 million customers who have taken over six billion rides on its cycles since the inception of the service.
In July, Ofo raised a massive $700 million in funding led by Alibaba as bicycle sharing began being seen as a competitor to ride hailing in major cities, which are struggling with pollution and overcrowding of streets. India, too, faces similar issues in many of its large metros, making the viability of such a service high.
Apart from Ofo and Ola, self-drive car rental service Zoomcar, too, has started its own bicycle sharing service in India. The space is expected to see high growth in the next one year as players flood the markets with internet of things-connected bicycles that don't need to be docked at stations as they can be tracked via GPS.