Driving Towards the Future: An Inside Look at Yulu’s Shared Mobility Revolution
CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Mr. Anuj Tewari – Chief Financial officer Yulu
- Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting Yulu and how the idea came about?
- India has some of the world’s most populated and polluted cities in the world. While infrastructure is developing at a rapid pace, our country needs a solution that is tailor-made for its realities. Realizing this, Yulu started with the mission of making urban mobility sustainable, affordable and accessible by offering shared first & last mile urban commute solutions. We believe that Shared Low Speed Electric Vehicles (LSEVs) powered by latest technology and supported by progressive policies can provide a scalable solution for a lot of everyday, intra-city mobility needs of individuals, while also creating a positive impact in the society. Convenient form-factors with easy-to-use technology that Yulu vehicles are built on provide diverse consumer cohorts, that includes females, students, elderly, gig workers etc, with an friendly, practical & accessible mode of commute.
- How does Yulu incorporate advanced AI into its technology, and what benefits does this provide for riders?
- Yulu has a full stack platform with its intelligent & proprietary software seamlessly integrated with its purpose-built vehicles and ecosystem components. The entire ecosystem from vehicles to the app to on-ground operations to the charging infrastructure etc are built connectivity-first and exchange data to ensure we run operations efficiently and provide a great customer experience. Most of our technology is developed in-house and has been honed over 100s of real-world iterations, in the last 5 years using millions of kms of ride data – and it thus can reliably handle the vagaries of Indian road conditions and riding patterns. For example, our system can learn demand patterns and advice the operations team on distribution (supply) of vehicles at the right zones in almost real-time, to ensure our customers always get a Yulu bike while helping optimize back-end for efficient movement of vehicles. Similarly, AI-powered system can identify energy requirements (for time of the day, day of the week) and equip our charging stations with sufficient batteries to ensure quick availability of batteries. Behind-the-scenes the system projects the expected task load to our operators and field staff, so that they can make resource allocation decisions for daily operations etc.
- What was the process like for developing the two new vehicles with bajaj, Dex GR and Miracle GR, and what makes them unique compared to other electric vehicles on the market?
- The 3rd Generation platform for Electric Vehicles – in which Miracle GR and DeX GR are built – is purpose-built for urban mobility, and is 100% Made in India. Developed with Bajaj Auto Limited, its an outcome of the first partnership of its kind between a new age mobility start-up and a large-scale world-class OEM. The process was one of deep collaboration where Yulu shared its deep knowledge of shared urban mobility market & EV technology and Bajaj brought its expertise in product design, development, engineering, and manufacturing capabilities. Most of the electric vehicles have been built for personal & private ownership – and are thus either very expensive for mainstream use or are cheap imports that don’t inspire confidence and pride of ownership. Many of these vehicles are directly deployed by shared mobility players in their fleet. Miracle GR & DeX GR are built grounds-up for shared urban mobility. They come with a welcoming and inspiring design and have a form-factor that is ergonomic and easy-to-ride. They are minimalistic yet highly functional and with their tech-powered utility, they offer a superlative customer experience with high operational efficiency.
- How do you see the future of shared mobility evolving, and where does Yulu fit into this landscape?
- The Shared Mobility segment will see exponential growth as they fulfill many daily use-cases and cuts across multiple user demographics. Yulu is a market leader in the Shared Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) segment. Yulu is the largest player in this segment in India, with a fleet of over 15,000 Shared EVs on road, currently. Yulu has seen good demand pick-up post-covid, with opening of office spaces, and the general growth in delivery at home and e-commerce sector. We are doubling-down on this space and aiming to scale 10X this year and also open up its services to new cities, where there is increasing interest, need and fit for shared mobility solutions.
- Can you tell us about any challenges or obstacles Yulu has faced since its launch, and how you have worked to overcome them?
- Whenever one is trying to do something new, it’s only natural to encounter unexpected challenges and opportunities along the way. Starting a concept like shared mobility required us to continuously work with the stakeholders to get them warmed up to the need and impact of a service like this. From getting permissions for creating parking zones across the city to help get dedicated riding lanes in some parts of the city, were some infrastructure related challenges we were able to overcome by closely working with stakeholders. With shared vehicles another issue is about the security of vehicles from theft and vandalism. We have leveraged technology in a big way to ensure the health of our fleet as well as quickly act as soon as we notice some undesired behavior – which is where our robust on-ground operations come in. Another challenge, which eventually turned out to be an opportunity, that came up was with Covid-19. Our Shared Mobility fleet was idle because of the lockdown as hardly anyone was stepping out. But being a solo ride service, Yulu was deemed as an essential service and allowed to operate during the lockdown, and that’s when we saw delivery partners picking up our vehicles for delivery. Spotting the rise in home delivery during COVID, the company launched shared rental services for delivery executives, with affordable EV rental pans. With 85% people in India not having access to personal vehicles, this service found an instant market-fit & today Yulu is used by many e-commerce & delivery companies contributing to over 6 million green deliveries monthly.
- How does Yulu approach pricing and making its services affordable and accessible to a wide range of people?
- Yulu is built on the principles of Accessibility, Affordability and Availability. Yulu vehicles are purpose-built for universal mobility. As light-weight, low-speed, easy-to-ride vehicles that legally don’t require a licence to ride, they are a highly accessible vehicle type for all genders, age groups and experience levels. Yulu provides very affordable time-based plans for its services, like pay-per-minute for short distance commutes as well as weekly rental packs for heavy users. In addition to these direct ways, Yulu works with city authorities and public transport companies to ensure that Yulu zones are available close to commuter hotspots and at the nodes of public transport. Presence of a reliable and easy-to-use last-mile mobility alternative like Yulu complements adoption & usage of public transport thereby reducing financial burden of commute on users.
- Can you describe Yulu’s approach to customer service and how you strive to provide a positive experience for riders?
- Yulu keeps a close eye on customer experience through data analysis, feedback at different touchpoints and in-depth customer interactions. Based on these, we launch product features and improvements that enhance user experience and usage. For speedy response to standard customer queries, we recently introduced chatbot on the app. Our 24 x 7 customer support team ensures that any customer query is resolved quickly.
- How does Yulu work with local governments and communities to ensure that its services are welcomed and integrated into the city infrastructure?
- Yulu works very closely with State & Central Ministries, local civic bodies, police departments, public transport companies and local communities, and has contributed to several progressive policies that have accelerated the pace of adoption of sustainable mobility in India. There is a clear realization among the stakeholders that the industry and Government bring different strengths to the table and the best outcome can only be achieved when they work together. What we have experienced in our interactions is that industry voice and perspective is highly valued due to the proximity to customers/ citizens and hands-on experience in operationalising services on the ground. Yulu has also created the ‘Safe Rider’ program, India’s first Traffic Safety Awareness certification programme for delivery executives, in which we have worked with local police departments and have trained 350+ delivery executives from 7+ e-commerce companies in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi, till date. Yulu also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Government of Karnataka in 2022 to bring in investments worth Rs 1200 crores in the state over a period of five years.
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