Headquartered in Bangalore, VOGO is a tech-enabled self-ride two-wheeler rental service that offers flexible, affordable and reliable rides to daily commuters. Sanchit Mittal, Co-Founder & CTO,VOGO shares how technology is transforming the commuting patterns in pandemic situation
Can you share VOGO’s journey in India so far?
I, along with my friends – Anand Ayyadurai and Padmanabhan Balakrishnan started VOGO in 2016 to address the complexity of urban commute and to provide convenient, affordable and reliable two-wheeler rides to daily commuters. We started with one scooter at a college fest and today, we have extended our services to more than one million users in Bangalore and Hyderabad. We have over 20,000 scooters at present and have covered over more than 130 million kilometers with over five million rides.
At VOGO, we have a strong commitment towards cutting edge technology to offer frictionless mobility solutions to the daily commuters. Infact, our early stage focus on technology has helped us in disrupting the industry with several industry-first initiatives including one-click booking experience for riders and GPS heartbeat. In addition to this, we also offer ‘key-less’ vehicles to its customers, which can be operated by connecting Bluetooth with the device attached to the vehicles.
Talking about our services, we currently offer an on-demand product (VOGO NOW) and a long-term rental product (VOGO KEEP) to our customers where VOGO KEEP is contributing more than 70 percent to our business. While the customer retention rate for both the models is extremely high, its quite interesting to know that 50 percent of our VOGO KEEP’s customers opt to renew their subscriptions weekly.
Further to resuming the services post unlock 1.0, we are continuously upgrading our technology to disrupt the mobility industry and have also retrieved 40 percent of the pre-lockdown levels till now.
How is technology reshaping the mobility sector in India?
We have optimally leveraged emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine learning (ML) and Internet of Things (IoT) to build industry first solutions. These unique compression algorithm-based solutions not only save data cost of the fleets but are also helping with the GPS tracking of the fleets and helmet.
Talking about VOGO, our self-drive scooters are equipped with hardware, software and data science technologies to enable them to function without any manual intervention. Leveraging the advanced technology, we have resolved the most complex process of refueling the vehicle which can be managed without present our executive’s presence. The in-house built technology is focused to create the most economic commute option after public transportation. And technology is at the centre of cost reduction for VOGO.
So far, we have built a gamut of in-house technology solutions including Fuel Anti-siphoning device for vehicles, Method, System and Device for Access to a Scooter, Method, System for Compressing a GP String, Restyle Lock and VOGO heartbeat- GPS tracking. These technologies are also patented by VOGO.
How are mobility players using technology to increase the efficiency of vehicles and offer contactless mobility solutions in the current scenario?
We have pioneered in Bluetooth technology with scooters which can be operated without any key and by simply connecting the phone with the IoT device on the scooter. Limiting physical touchpoints in the overall commute and safe unlock of the vehicles help customers to start the ride within few seconds. While IoT smartness inside each scooter powers this whole experience, smart ML algorithms make the commute safe and secured.
Considering that the social distancing is a crucial move to minimalize the Covid effect, we believe that people will be moving more towards contact less and personal mobility solutions. They will be more concerned about sharing their ride with multiple commuters and hence, will prefer options which are safe and reliable. To address this, we launched industry-first home-drop bike delivery service in May 2020.
To further ensure that our customers are safe, we have also introduced a 4-step sanitisation process which is first of its kind in our industry. We are not only sanitizing our vehicles in front of our customers but have also introduced the first ever home-drop service so that they don’t have to step out unnecessarily.
How does adding keyless scooters and heartbeat help VOGO in attracting new customers? What is the tech behind it and its overall benefits?
We designed and developed a completely automated Bluetooth-enabled IOT model, which allowed keyless start and automated operating, ensuring zero human intervention. With the ongoing pandemic, customers are looking forward for a safe service which has no human intervention and VOGO’s keyless feature is just the perfect match for them.
With an enthusiastic tech savvy team, we have home-grown IoT solutions which not only provides best services to customers but also strengthens the company’s technology. One of these technologies is GPS Heartbeat, a unique patented optimisation algorithm home-grown by VOGO. It saves costs and reduces heavy data storage. The innovation functions in three following steps- Optimizes on the bike, sends data to the server via a SIM card and stores the data.
How it works:
EV vehicles run on a single heavy battery which is large. The same battery is also used to send data and signals to the server. However, majority VOGO bikes run on gasoline and use a very small battery & sends data to the server in the form of pulses. This allows the average VOGO bike to run for 10-15 days unlike other bikes which drain out quicker. This helps the company save costs on data storage and other server costs.
How is automation going to play a significant role in the post-pandemic era?
In the vehicle rental industry, automation will allow easy and quick processes which were time consuming and physical in nature till now. For an instance, if someone wants to rent a vehicle, the journey of the customer starts from submitting/ showing a license, then completing the KYC, booking a ride and then the payment.
Automation will bring efficiency and productivity gains and will help in improving the customer as well the employee experience. Robo chats and automated calling have already emerged and is evolving in India. This innovation has significantly reduced the human efforts and increased the efficiency with intelligent responses to the customer queries.
Can you highlight the two-wheeler shared mobility market in India. How is VOGO disrupting this space with the help of technology?
As per a Morgan Stanley report, India is expected to be a leader in shared mobility by 2030 as the rising share of electric and autonomous vehicles will improve shared mile economics. While the two-wheeler shared mobility market in India has the potential of 15 million daily trips. It is quite evident that India has the capacity to create an enormous network for transportation with millions of commuters utilizing public transport, on-demand services and personal mobility.
According to the KPMG report, 19 percent of people who used public transport and 15 per cent who used cabs pre-Covid are expected to shift to two-wheelers in the short-term post Covid.
According to Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), electric two-wheeler industry is showing signs of revival. In September, sales of High-Speed Electric two-wheelers (HS E2W) have increased by 72 percent on YoY basis. The registration stood at 2544 units in September 2020, as against 1473 vehicles sold in the corresponding month of the last year.
After resuming our operations in May (Post Covid, we have seen strong recovery. We are already at 40percent of our pre-Covid revenue numbers and expect to be at parity very soon.
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