How Rapido Aims To Ease The Minds Of Policymakers And People

How Rapido Aims To Ease The Minds Of Policymakers And People

Bike-taxis are a convenient and cheap transportation option that can help declutter roads. But owing to concerns over personal and ride safety, they face the heat of regulation. What are bike-taxi companies doing to ease the minds of policymakers and people? We spoke with Pavan Guntupalli, Co-Founder of Rapido, to find out.

Tsunami CostabirUpdated: Monday, May 13, 2024, 09:16 AM IST
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Rapido was founded in 2015 by Aravind Sanka, Pavan Guntupalli and SR Rishikesh. In the mostly orthodox society of India, they envisioned making people comfortable with the idea of a woman sitting on a stranger’s bike. But a reason for the comfort being - it’s a Rapido rider. The company now operates in over 100 cities across India with their bike-taxi services. And while the gender ratio of bike-taxi users is still very much in the favour of men, they strive to change that by implementing industry-first safety features.

What was your vision for Rapido when you founded it?

We wanted to build something that would change people’s lives through sustainable impact. By 2015, the ride-sharing revolution had begun in the country, but we could still see people inconveniencing themselves trying to get into overcrowded buses and metros. The reason being - a majority of the country cannot afford to shell out approximately Rs 200 every day over commute. So affordability was a barrier. 

Then, when you move away from metro cities, you realise that apart from the barriers of convenience and cost, there are places with a lack accessibility to vehicles. After 10 pm or so, there are no options to leave your home.

India is the home of the largest two-wheeler manufacturers and two-wheeler owners, with approximately 160 million two-wheelers on the road. Even a farmer in a small town would own a bike for their own commuting purposes and they could leverage that vehicle to help others with their commute and even earn additional money for themselves.

To create a sustainable impact meant that we didn't want to get into adding new vehicles on the road but rather leverage the already existing infrastructure of those millions of two-wheelers. We also wanted to open the opportunity of becoming a part-timer captain (rider) to anyone with a bike and some extra time. I’m proud to say that approximately 1.5 lakh new part-time jobs are generated through Rapido per month, which helps enhance people’s quality of life. 

What are the safety features Rapido has worked on for bike-taxis?

A cornerstone for the brand is safety. In India, it is not okay for a girl to get onto a stranger’s bike, but we want to tell people that while it might not be okay to get onto a stranger’s bike, it is okay to get onto a Rapido. 

For our captains, there is a stringent four-step process with background verification, document verification, training and assessment. After these steps, they are allowed onto the system, and everything that the captain does during their first ten rides is closely monitored - from speed to steep turns and rash driving. Subjective feedback - behaviour, professionalism and courtesy - is taken from the customer. The questions we ask are pointed and go beyond a generic rating or review. In case of any negative feedback, we put that rider back onto the training module.

Then, we also have a system of features for users where rides are tracked and can be shared with friends. We have an emergency support centre that notifies first responders (the local police station) in case of an emergency and a unit that tracks route deviation and unscheduled stops. The user gets pinged immediately in such events for a check-in. 

We launched an industry-first late-night check-in call where between 10 pm and 6 am, all users get a safety check-in call on completing their ride. 

We are working on building a feature that allows you to connect with the nearest captain in case of an emergency. The nearest captain can show up in 3-5 minutes, which is way faster than emergency services. 

Since bike-taxis are a new concept in India, one mishap can up-turn the entire industry. This is why, even when we were a small team, we put a major focus on safety. In 2015, we were the first company in India to work with insurance companies to create customised insurance for bike-taxis. 

In light of the bans on bike-taxis in certain states, from a policy perspective, what suggestions would you recommend?

There are two ways to go about it in the future. First, two-wheelers can be bought only for commercial usage; second, we can leverage the available behemoth two-wheeler infrastructure. 

All bikes in India are bought with a sense of personal usage. The more constraints that are put in place, like changing number plates, the more detrimental it will be. The emerging youth face unemployment and underemployment, so it is important to minimise the barriers to entering into earning opportunities. An inclusive framework to allow more people to access the opportunity is necessary.

What product and service expansions are you looking forward to in the future?

Rapido’s bike-taxis are present in 100+ cities across the country. In 2020, due to Covid-19, users requested autos, citing proximity concerns and we introduced autos across all 100 cities. Currently, we have cab services in 40+ cities, which will go up to 70 by the end of the year. 

What do you think is necessary to improve India's transportation system?

We want people to view bike-taxis as a first and last-mile transportation option for places that already have a well-developed metro and railway infrastructure. This way, we can actively promote the use case to encourage public transportation. Like in Lucknow and Hyderabad, Rapido’s tie-up with metro authorities has increased metro usage. 

People don't use metros because they have problems with parking or last-mile connectivity. The more inconvenience there is, the more reluctance there is. We’re working on developing a product that can book both the first-mile and last-mile bike ride with a single click and even integrate metro ticketing into the booking. 

Our roads operate at 4x their capacity, so ride-sharing options can decongest roads and accommodate more people in fewer vehicles.

What are some key lessons you’ve learnt building Rapido?

If we wanted to build a profitable taxi company, it would be easy enough for us to do it with a small team. But change is not easy. When Rapido started, other than Goa, no other state recognised bike-taxis. After consistent efforts, 11 states have now recognised them as a form of public transportation. So persistence and the team have played a big role in building the company.

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