How this startup is riding on IoT to ease your daily commute
Bengaluru-based Vogo is a scooter-sharing platform with an automated pickup and drop facility.
Founders: Anand Ayyadurai, Padmanabhan Balakrishnan, and Sanchit Mittal
Year it was founded: mid-2016
Where is it based: Bengaluru
The problem it solves: daily commute
Sector: transportation/ Scooter rental
Funding raised: seed round from HNI
Across India, using autos and taxis for daily commutes is not only expensive but time-consuming as well. Besides, public transport is not always accessible and remains a hassle for most people.
Taking a cue from their own experiences, Anand Ayyadurai (32), Padmanabhan Balakrishnan (32), and Sanchit Mittal (28) started Vogo in mid-2016.
Anand says, “Outside India, cycle sharing is the option of choice for short trips and as a last-mile link to public transport. Especially in China, multibillion-dollar cycle-sharing companies have been built. In India, given our roads, climate, and lack of cycle lanes, scooter sharing is the right solution and not cycles.”
Vogo offers on-demand IoT-enabled scooters available across the city. Customers can pick up and drop one-way at any point within the city and use Vogo to get to work or to access public transport.
“We launched our automated solution called ‘SPARK’ in mid-2016 from Bengaluru and are soon automating our entire fleet and expanding aggressively. The market opportunity is extremely large since we are directly targeting the $5 billion auto and taxi market with a 50 percent cheaper and faster solution,” he adds.
Riding on IoT
A user can book an IoT-enabled SPARK scooter on an hourly basis. Every SPARK scooter is equipped with a key box and an array of sensors. Once customers pay online, they receive an OTP to be entered on the keypad to extract the scooter key. When the ride has been completed, they plug the key back.
“At the backend, we have an array of sensors monitoring and tracking multiple aspects of every SPARK, be it handlebar locks, dicky, fuel levels, battery levels, etc. This has been built completely by an in-house technology team and is the first time in the world that a mechanical scooter has been converted into a smart IoT device,” explains Anand.
This data can then be analysed to build predictive models which can be used to forecast and rebalance supply and demand, understand and incentivise good riding behaviour patterns, and predict future parking requirements in different parts of the city.
CEO Anand, who handles marketing and strategy for Vogo, is an IIM Ahmedabad graduate with over seven years of work experience that includes three years at Flipkart. Padmanabhan is the COO and handles operations and finance at Vogo. He is an ESSEC grad with seven years of experience across Amazon, Flipkart, Lazada, and Zoomcar. Sanchit is the CTO and handles engineering and product. An IIT Bombay graduate, he was one of the first frontend engineers at housing.com. He also ran his own software development firm through college.
Vogo has a team size of 15. Talking about the challenges, Anand says, “One of the challenges we faced setting up as first-time entrepreneurs was to unlearn our experience as startup employees. The resources and money that a small team like ours can apply to a problem are very different from the late-stage startups where we worked. So, we had to pick and choose learnings that would work for us. I think scale is something we have handled well; our experience handling much larger businesses has helped there.”
After starting with one scooter, Vogo acquired 18 within a week and currently has a fleet size of 250.
It claims to make over 5,000 bookings a month and has over 15,000 customers across four cities — Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Manipal, and Mysore.
Talking about its differentiator, Anand says, “Our proprietary IoT platform sets us apart — it enables us to scale one-way pickup and drop and ensures 24/7 availability.”
It charges customers on the basis of duration, with the minimum duration being 30 minutes.
It has raised seed funding from Ajit Thomas, Chairman of AV Thomas group; Hari Thiagarajan, ED, Thiagarajar Mills; Muthu Murugappan, Business Head, Nutraceuticals – EID Parry; Sriram Viji from Brakes India; Vishesh Rajaram from the VC fund Speciale Invest; Karan Chandhok, Indian Formula-1 driver; and other HNIs.
With India being the world’s biggest market for two-wheelers, many big and small bike rental players like RentOnGo, Wheelstreet, Wicked Ride, Royal Brothers, Rent Set Go, Roadpanda, and Tazzobikes are already in the space.
“We want people to start using scooter sharing to access public transport instead of using their private vehicles for a long trip and thus work together to decongest our cities. Once more consumers start using electric vehicles, we will have electric scooter sharing as a large component of our fleet,” says Anand.