Meet the Mavericks: The founder who dropped a bike from the first floor to test it - Vivekananda Hallekere’s inspiring story
No guts, no glory! YourStory’s new video series, Mavericks, gives you insider access into the lives of some of the most successful entrepreneurs. In the second episode of Season 2, we talk to Vivekananda Hallekere, Co-founder and CEO of Bounce, the world's fastest-growing bike-sharing startup.
A maverick is a person with an incredible vision, someone who challenges the norm and forces people to think beyond the ordinary. With this series, YourStory is going behind the scenes to uncover the inspirations and secrets of the ultimate maverick in the business world: the entrepreneur.
Watch YourStory’s latest Maverick: Vivekananda Hallekere, Co-founder and CEO of Bounce, the world's fastest-growing bike-sharing startup in conversation with YourStory's Shradha Sharma.
If you have ever commuted in Bengaluru or any of the 11 other cities that Bounce operates in, you may have noticed the bright yellow and red Bounce scooters zipping past you. For commuters in these cities, these daily commute bikes are an answer to their last-mile commuting woes. Just 18 percent of India has access to personal mobility, and Bounce’s keyless scooters allow users the convenience of picking up a bike from anywhere through its app and dropping it at any location once they reach their destination.
Their keyless and dockless sharing solution, powered by an IoT framework, makes Bounce’s offering unique not just in India, but across the world.
Bounce became the world's fastest-growing bike-sharing startup in 2019 after the company completed 20 million rides since the commencement of its operations. and began clocking 1,20,000 rides per day in Bengaluru alone. . Vivekananda Hallekere is the man at the wheel of this unique startup, and is on full throttle to go places. .
“To put things in perspective, India has 150 million two wheelers. The need for mobility is therefore proven. We’ve also seen that people are willing to pay for mobility convenience. So the willingness to pay is proven. Finally, with our success rate, we’ve proven that trust is possible even with unsupervised assets. Therefore, it is all about scaling now. And if you can get something to work in India, which has one of the toughest dynamics to operate in, it’s relatively easy for you to scale your idea elsewhere,” said Vivekananda (or Vivek as he’s commonly known).
The courage to do what no one has done before
“As an entrepreneur, it’s important to know when to de-bunk conventional wisdom, and when to follow it. When we started up, we decided to our build IoT and hardware from scratch in a country that wasn’t traditionally known for its IoT talent. It’s not surprising, therefore, that it was our biggest challenge. But we put everything we had behind it to solve it. And we did,” said Vivek.
“But beyond tech, the participation from the community that we noticed with our project was unprecedented. Our biggest learning was that, if you designed something relevant to make life more convenient and economical, the community does collaborate with you to make it work,” he added.
“Innovation is also a great equaliser. It’s surprising to note that millennials, the group that everyone keeps talking about, forms just one segment of our users. In one day, it’s entirely possible that one of our bikes has taken a vegetable vendor to the market, a college student to his college, a working professional to his office and even a senior citizen to run errands,” said Vivek.
Creating value for the shift in values
“Today’s user would invest in an experience like skydiving rather than spend on a commodity, like a scooter. There is no emotion involved with a vehicle purchase these days. Users would rather pay a subscription than an EMI. What truly was our job was to create tech and ops that would reinforce the value proposition of convenience with supporting innovations,” said Vivek.
“Today, we’ve also created a mechanic aggregator app called Hawk Eye that not only solves our need for quick and cost effective repairs, but also provides mechanics with an additional source of income,” he added.
Cruising down the EV road
Vivek sees electric vehicles becoming a game changer in the mobility space. More than just the eco-friendliness, the operating cost of electronic vehicles are nearly half of what it takes to run a fuel-powered vehicle. Plus, electric scooters come with added benefits of not needing servicing and maintenance like oil changes etc.
Besides partnering with electric scooter brands in the market, Vivek is also excited about rolling out Bounce’s very own brand of electric scooters. These scooters, though yet to be named, are designed with a lot of innovative functionalities including intelligent seats with the ability to detect the number of people riding on the scooter, remote tyre pressure monitors, and all-aluminum frames that are less prone to damage.
“In fact one of the tests that we’ve subjected the bike to is dropping it from the first floor and seeing no damage. We’ve also managed to build it for USD 600 a piece (without the batteries), which is a big win for us if you consider the USD 3,000 to 4,000 price tag on an electric scooter abroad. It has the potential to become the electronic scooter the world is waiting for,” said Vivek.
Riding from India to the rest of the world
Because everything has already been built in India, Vivek believes that scaling to another country will be a breeze, particularly due to the lack of the human cost component.
“In India, a ride usually works up to a dollar, while in Europe I could charge 23 cents a minute, and therefore be more profitable there. Also, having tested under more rigorous conditions in India, which is a developing market, it makes it easier to scale to an advanced market where the conditions are less tough.”
Leaping off from spreadsheets and onto the road
“There’s never enough data to rely on it completely for decisions,” said Vivek talking about the need for founders to be true pathbreakers. “There’s merit in going beyond spreadsheets, and listening to what both the customer and your intuition tells you. Everything looks great on paper, but the real deal is to put something down on paper and then overtake it,” he added.
“A healthy mix of paranoia, optimism and delusion helps ride the ups, downs and sharp curves that the journey throws at you,” chuckles Vivek, in conclusion.
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