Bike rental services have become a norm in India today. But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, this form of ride-sharing was mostly unheard of when Amit Gupta and his three friends launched Yulu back in 2017. Now, Yulu is a name to be reckoned with. Ask some random people in Bangalore how they commute to work or travel around the city, and you will find a handful of answers along the lines of ‘Yulu,’ ‘Yulu bicycle,’ and ‘Yulu Miracle.’
This bike rental startup not only opened up a new business field in the country but has quite literally transformed the entire transport industry in some of the biggest cities across India. Whether you are interested in learning about successful Indian startups or are looking for innovation and insights for taking your small business to great heights, Yulu’s success story offers tons of inspiration for every entrepreneur out there.
Read on to learn more about it.
How It All Started
Yulu is the brain-child of Amit Gupta, an IIT-Kanpur graduate who has also attended the world-famous Harvard Business School . With a proven track record of leading and managing impactful businesses, creating a revolutionary startup was something Amit was destined to do.
The idea for starting a bike rental service struck when Amit was making comparisons between the economic landscape of China and India. Bike-sharing has long been a popular mode of transportation in various Chinese metropolitan cities such as Beijing. Since India has almost the same population and a growing traffic congestion problem like that in China, introducing a similar app-based bicycle sharing service made perfect sense.
Even before he founded Yulu, Amit played a proactive role in developing and strengthening the startup ecosystem in India. He had previously built InMobi, a mobile data and technology platform that helps international brands understand and interact with connected customers . On a side note, InMobi is hailed as the world’s largest marketing cloud, valued at over $50 million – equal to more than INR 380 crore!
Amit is one of those business owners who don’t just wish to pile profits. Rather, he is one of those dedicated entrepreneurs who envision being the facilitator for societal change. And that indeed is the principle upon which he founded the customer-centric bike rental service, Yulu.
The company’s mission is to make urban mobility in its home country as sustainable as possible. Its goal is simple – make city transportation accessible, available, and affordable. The company’s name is a perfect embodiment of its overall vision and mission. This is because ‘yulu’ means ‘simple’ in the Chinese language.
Yulu was actually established in partnership with Hemant Gupta, RK Misra, and Naveen Dachuri. The company initially launched operations only in Bangalore, followed by Pune shortly thereafter. If you have used Yulu yourself, you’d very well know how affordable, comfortable, and convenient its rides are.
Yulu utilizes a custom-built mobile application to connect micro-mobility vehicles (MMVs), including smart bicycles and electric bikes. The service is built upon advanced technological solutions. The platform combines artificial intelligence and machine learning with the Internet of Things (IoT) to enable smooth connectivity and a seamless first to last-mile riding option.
Since it’s focused on making daily commutation hassle-free for customers, using the service to book a ride is incredibly easy. All you need to do is download the Yulu app from the App Store or Play Store and create an account. Users are then prompted to add money to their Yulu e-wallet by using any digital payment option such as Paytm, PhonePe, Google Play, or their personal debit or credit card.
The app uses GPS to track and display any and all available bikes at nearby and other Yulu Zones. Yulu Zones are designated spots or docking stations where unused bikes are parked. Once you arrive at the zone, you can scan the QR code on your chosen vehicle to start the trip. You can use the vehicle for as long as you want and park it at a nearby Yulu Zone when you reach your destination. The ride fare is automatically calculated and deducted from your Yulu wallet. Yulu charges customers on a pay-per-use basis.
Yulu’s Success Story: The Journey So Far
By the time it turned one year old, this tech-based mobility startup had already expanded its services to Mumbai and Bhubaneswar. In September 2019, just about two years since its inception, Yulu entered New Delhi and Ahmedabad as well. As of last year, the company boasts a total of over 18,000 single-seater electric vehicles serving more than 2.5 million passengers in seven major cities in India .
Yulu currently holds the title of the country’s largest e-mobility service provider. Given the rising popularity of e-bikes in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, the company aims to increase its electric bike fleet to 100,000 mobile units by the end of 2021.
It has won the backing of Bajaj Autos, which is one of the largest automakers in India. The automotive giant has invested $8 million in Yulu in Series A financing round  and has previously formed several strategic partnerships with companies like Uber to make the urban commute more efficient and eco-friendly.
One of the major reasons behind the tremendous success of Yulu is that even its electric bikes are treated as bicycles from a legal standpoint. In other words, riding Yulu’s electric bikes (called Yulu Miracle) does not require users to wear a helmet, own a license, or carry vehicle registration documents when hitting the road. The bikes have a maximum speed of 25 km/h and are, therefore, safe to drive for the young and elderly alike. Each bike takes around 4 hours to charge fully and can drive up to 60 km at a stretch. Plus, the integrated lock/unlock feature within the app gives users peace of mind regarding the safety of their rented bike at all times.
While it started as a small initiative to combat traffic jams and the pollution problem on the congested roads of Bangalore, Yulu is now redefining transport solutions all over India. It has positively influenced the country’s urban mobility industry in just four short years. And it continues to transform daily commute in megacities in India while helping conserve the environment at the same time.