How this NIT alum went from selling panipuris to starting an EV rental business
If you ask Shivam Sisodiya about his earlier ventures before establishing an electric vehicles rental business, he is happy to recall how he sold the crowd favourite pani-puris on the streets and marriage halls of Hyderabad in 2017.
“A friend and I designed a beautiful pani-puri cart. It was just for fun, but it caught a lot of attention because of its design and different flavours of ‘pani’. While most pani-puri sellers gave chole inside the pooris, we were the very few who gave potato inside the puris. Once, we even got featured in a newspaper,” recalls Shivam.
An NIT-Rourkela alum, Shivam decided it was time to put his entrepreneurial skills to better use, while also banking on his experience working with Amazon as a product manager and business analyst, and looked at the burgeoning sector of sustainable transportation. He thus launched the interestingly titledin Hyderabad in 2020, an electric two-wheeler rental business tapping into the growing electric vehicles industry.
Bijliride offers daily, weekly, and monthly rental subscription services of electric vehicles across Hyderabad. Moreover, it also offers 24X7 customer service, on-road battery swapping within 30 minutes and minimal recharging costs at stations.
Customers of Bijliride
While EV rental is not a new sector, Bijliride claims to differentiate itself from its competitors with its 24X7 service throughout the city.
“We also provide an on-the-road battery swapping facility or come with another vehicle if required. Other players in the sector provide services only during the day hours,” adds Shivam.
Bijliride’s business flourished from September 2021, after it bumped up its fleet to 60 vehicles for which it tied up with Hero Electric. The company boasts a zero non-occupancy rate, indicating that each scooter stays at the station for barely two hours before the next customer arrives.
Bijlirides’ subscription packages are set at Rs 250 per day, Rs 1,300 per week and Rs 4,900 per month, with each subscription offering unlimited kilometres.
A bootstrapped company, the founders have pooled Rs 48 lakh of their personal wealth in the company. With about 60 electric two-wheelers, the company has maintained a revenue rate of Rs 3.6 lakh per month, according to Shivam.
According to a report by India Energy Storage Alliance, the Indian electric vehicle market is projected to reach 15,398.19 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 44 percent between 2020 and 2027.
A solution for all
A majority of Bijliride’s customers are gig workers working as delivery partners for ecommerce platforms such as Amazon, Swiggy and Zomato. This also helps them spread the word through their communication channels.
Speaking on their marketing strategy, Shivam says, “We asked these gig workers to spread the word to contact us directly for rental details. We also pasted stickers with our contact numbers and rental details on the scooters. Essentially all our marketing was through word of mouth and stickers on scooters,” says Shivam.
Another segment of customers includes corporate employees who do not want to spend huge amounts of money on office carpooling or other transportation facilities, and prefer these comparatively cheaper subscription plans.
Today, nearly two years after its inception, Bijliride’s team consists of 15 people including Shivam. He recalls the early days when he had to be his own team.
“Since Aditya was working in Bengaluru, he could not be here in Hyderabad all the time. I was doing everything on my own - I was the CEO, the station manager, handling the rentals, and everything that came along with those roles. Later, I hired someone who could fix EVs. Eventually, Aditya shifted base and we could now hire more people, at least as freelancers,” Shivam reminisces.
The startup now has about 10 on-ground staff who work on a shift basis to provide customer service to almost 90 unique customers ever since it began its full-fledged operations.
Challenges along the way
One of the initial challenges that Bijliride faced was finding investors for the business and tying up with EV manufacturers. Shivam still feels that building connections in the corporate world requires significant effort and time.
Another significant challenge was ensuring the security of the vehicles. The startup took six months to develop a relay device system that allowed them to switch off the vehicle in case the scooter was being abandoned.
“We had to ensure that the scooters are returned safely to the station and not abandoned on some road. A GPS tracking system was not sufficient to ensure this; anyone could find the GPS device on the vehicle and destroy it. We took six months to come up with a relay device system and find someone who knew how to fit this system in the vehicle,” Shivam says.
With a market demand of 400-500 vehicles, Bijliride is planning to procure more vehicles in the near future to cater to the growing demand for two-wheeler EVs. It is also inching towards its seed round in the next few months. The team is also developing an app for easing the process of renting their vehicles.