Bangalore-based self-riding bike rental start-up ONN Bikes, which came into being in May 2015 and started operations in 2016, is today present across 10 cities with an inventory of over 2300 bikes. According to Namit Jain, Founder & CEO, ONN Bikes, the company has lined up efforts to increase its inventory to 6000 bikes by the end of this calendar year. Pointing out that ONN Bikes would soon launch services in Ahmedabad, Indore, Pune and Kochi, Namit Jain tells Sanjeev Ramachandran in an interview that the company is looking at covering all major metros where local commute is a huge problem. The company will also target tourist destinations across India.
From a start-up, ONN Bikes is now a fast growing bike rental company. Could you please elaborate on your growth and the challenges you had faced over the course of your journey?
ONN Bikes initially started its journey in the B2B segment and soon tied up with nearly 60 corporate houses and leading industry giants like Ola, Swiggy and Uber. We concentrated on expanding our B2B operations in terms of business tie-ups for sustained revenue generation and continued geographical expansion before launching our B2C services. Our B2B focus helped us save cash burns during our foundation stages. Getting regulatory approvals for licenses was another challenge as a startup and, today, we own licenses across 7 states and have another 4 in the pre-approval stages.
In the B2C segment, Tier II & III form potential markets for us and building awareness for an emerging concept like bike rental across our audiences posed a major challenge. Similarly, understanding, programming and executing the dynamics of demand-supply requirements based on our initial and growing inventory provided a lot of learning’s in the initial stages of our launch which we effectively applied across other cities.
Today, we are present across 10 cities with an inventory of over 2300 bikes. We plan to increase our inventory to 6000 bikes by the end of this calendar year.
How did you first think of such a venture? Was it easy finding the funds? Where did the money come from?
The initial thought of a bike rental service occurred while on a trip to Goa. The hassle free process of bike rentals in Goa with the complete freedom of not being dependent on a third person service (cab service) along with the low rentals further fueled the concept into building a planned two-wheeler rental service structure called ONN Bikes. We further developed it to provide a seamless experience to our customers and brought in technology to improve front end services and back-end learnings.
The bike rental service model is in its nascent stage in India but with great growth potentials based on the number of tourist locations, number of annual domestic and international travelers, need for quality and cost effective mode of transport and need for hassle free experience while travelling. We created an effective debt model of motorcycle investment for our asset investors. We have till date received three rounds of funding.
Could you briefly tell us about your expansion to other cities? Where all would you be present in the next five years? Have you earmarked an amount that you would invest towards expansion?
We launched our first module in Bengaluru and, today, are present across 7 states with 4 additions in the near future. We will soon launch our services in Ahmedabad, Indore, Pune and Kochi. We are looking at covering all major metros where local commute is a huge problem and are also targeting tourist destinations across India. We are also launching another model called ‘Rent to Own’ which allows our customers to own two-wheelers with planned payment model. We have estimated an investment, considering present services and future innovations, of around Rs 50 crore across both B2B and B2C segments.
You had mentioned that ONN operates in two verticals. Please tell us more on that.
ONN Bikes operates across the B2B and B2C models. In our B2B model, we have partnered with brands that require feasible solutions to their logistic requirements and provide them with an affordable, reliable and high performing two wheelers through long term lease or our ‘Rent to Own’ model. Our B2C model is designed to provide hassle-free and affordable intercity and intracity commute to our customers who can select hourly, daily, weekly or monthly rental packages as per their requirements.
Technology seems to be the driving factor at ONN Bikes. Please elaborate
We strongly believe in adapting to the fast changing environment. And, in today’s world, there’s nothing without a slight hint of technology inside it. For an organization that runs majorly on the internet, we are bound to introduce new features that provide a better platform for users to navigate on.
We have integrated a vast number of high end features like GPS tracking that helps us located our two-wheelers in case they reach beyond the specified limits, the anti-theft system, the on-call assistance that allows the rider to call us in case the two-wheeler suddenly breaks down during a trip, and the wear-tear system that indicates how much the two-wheeler has been utilised. Small indications like these involving massive engineering aspects are definitely required to track the health of the two-wheeler.
What additional technology aspects would you want to see your venture boasting about in the near term?
We constantly keep on experimenting to create a product that offers profound experience in the front end and usage learning’s in the back end to help us further improve the product, service and experience. At the moment, our team is carrying out research on Predictive Analysis using Machine Learning, which will help us understand the pattern of our bookings and prepare for the future.
We are also working on a system that revolves around Impact and Vehicle Condition Monitoring that will indefinitely help us discard the non-performing vehicles which means our customers will be highly satisfied with the ONN experience. Another one of our projects is the Common Defaulter Database system that is essentially a common data pool between every two-wheeler/four-wheeler rental company to mark a defaulter if any. It’s one of our promising projects and we hope to reduce thefts within the industry.
Do you foresee competition building up in the terrain you operate on? How would you like to see the arrival of more such players?
We definitely sense an awakening in the market for two-wheeler rentals. Having a healthy competition will also help us to provide better service to our consumers.
Please tell us a bit about your customers. Apart from the logistics companies and food startups, where else do you see an opportunity for your bikes?
Apart from the logistics companies and food startups, we have collaborated with leading pharmaceutical companies, e-commerce organizations, NGOs for relocation to urban areas and QSR chains like Dominos and Pizza Hut who run their operations on leased bikes. Bike Taxis are another domain that we are excited to venture into. Most of the tourist destinations outside India like Thailand and Indonesia, Bike Taxis are extremely common due to the incoming flux of tourists per month. Tourist destinations in India are equally competitive and we aim to beat this obstacle within a few years.
You are a Chartered Accountant who opted to kick start a bike rental business. And, you have indeed been successful in making it possible. Is ONN Bikes the result of a dream you had been chasing? What next?
It has been a team effort. Converting a belief into a reality requires a lot of trust, support and advice from the team and we all are equally responsible for the success of ONN Bikes. We all are excited about the online space and look forward to launching equally successful products together in the future.
Do you see ventures like ONN Bikes taking over the personal commuting segment at a time when going green is the mantra. What plans do you have to see such a thing happen?
We are already working towards the ‘go green’ initiative and have been running pilots on electric motorcycles and bicycle rentals in few cities. The ultimate goal is sustainability, ours and our environment.