Not so long ago, availing a metro or even a local train seemed to be troublesome for many daily commuters due to the unavailability of a safe and reliable last-mile connectivity. Although mechanical and electric rickshaws or local transport companies run their fleet, getting a swift, reliable, time-oriented and non-polluting means of transportation, dropping us home, is often an impediment for us to use public transport. To add to the injury, highly congested urban roadways and the summer heat and pollution act as a major barrier for the rising urban middle class take the Delhi metro ride. It is not a hidden fact that the uber-cool metro services of Delhi is operating at losses.
Uber and Ola might have captured the market of ride-sharing services, but to get a timely availability in a rush hour, or the ease of access in crowded stations, has its toll on the tired daily passengers. SmartE, India’s largest E-Rickshaw ride-sharing company has a unique value proposition for metro ride hailers. With a current fleet of roundabout 900, this startup has been working on getting the fragmented e-rickshaw industry into a more legalized, structured and commuter-friendly sector. Using technology and support through network and analytics, it is trying to create an ecosystem of fair pricing, reasonable rates for transportation and convenience for the customers by being available as per metro timings.
The entire business model is based around the charging infrastructure and it has positioned itself in the market differently to its partners and its customers simultaneously. By building strategic partnerships throughout its supply chain and providing the basic requirement of charging infrastructure for the e-rickshaw pilots, the new startup has planned well and done its research before getting themselves established in a fragmented, unregulated and uninsured sector of services. According to SmartE founder Goldie Srivastava, the startup is looking to compete with the unregulated e-rickshaw associations by proposing a more safe and tech-oriented platform for consumers to find the last-mile connectivity. Also, he is ready to take on upcoming challenges related to capacity expansion plans that the organization is looking to add. The ride hailing service at such an untapped sector is filled with major hurdles, be it political or even at the company’s operational level. But Goldie believes that his entire team’s efforts and experience would lead SmartE to reach its target of 100,000 fleets across the major Indian cities by 2022.
Unique value propositions come with a lot of flexibility to its strategic plan to run its business. When the company started in 2014, it acted more as a facilitator of e-rickshaw pullers who got licenses and approvals, including quicker loans for procuring vehicles. But today the company owns a total fleet asset of 650 vehicles across cities like Delhi, Faridabad, and Gurgaon. It is also expanding its charging infrastructure for catering to this growing fleet. Without charging points, the journey will not be hassle-free for the commuters, who would not like to ride again with SmartE. The company has come up with centralized charging stations of around 15,000 to 20,000 square feet in Delhi NCR. At the same time using decentralized locations for exchanging Li-Ion batteries which are a new addition to the currently existing acid run batteries. It is a smart move and provides efficiency to its battery-operated vehicles.
The startup received an angel fund of $1 million followed by a Series A and Series B funding of $5million and $15million respectively. The company is using these resources to increase its capacity and scale strategically since it is an asset-heavy business. Although most tech-oriented businesses are asset-light, the risk in the case of SmartE is higher since its model is asset prone and majorly includes the charging infrastructure. That being said, Goldie believes that he can certainly change the game of the last mile connectivity by providing a better and sustainable alternative to Uber and Ola.