How bike taxi startups in Gurgaon, Baxi & M-Taxi, are positioning themselves as cheap options for commuters
Besides providing cost and time advantage, M-Taxi is looking at large-scale employment generation for young men.
Location: Sikandarpur Metro Station in Gurgaon on Delhi Metro’s Yellow line
Shamveer, 30, a driver with the just-launched Baxi bike taxi service in Gurgaon starts his Bajaj CT 100 motorcyle. I am, to put it mildly, somewhat nervous, never having been a pillion rider on Gurgaon’s rush hour streets before. We’re headed for DLF CyberCity, Gurgaon’s busiest business district. Before we start on the trip — which is a little under 3 km — Shamveer hands me a helmet, with a prominent brand signage of Baxi, and explains that I need to place my feet firmly on the footrests and hold on to the handhold at the back. He wears a bright yellow jacket, the uniform provided by Baxi.
The traffic is heavy and during the ride, which takes around 10 minutes, Shamveer, tells me that he moved to Gurgaon a couple of years ago from his village in Uttar Pradesh looking for work. “I live nearby in a rented place... While so far I was doing odd delivery jobs with my bike, from now I will be working full time as a Baxi driver,” he says, adding that the brand new commercial licence that his bike now has will be a huge advantage in winning the confidence of riders.
All 23 Baxi riders were given a few weeks of training in safety standards, etiquette, hygiene and environment protection before the service took off last Tuesday. Shamveer has been encouraging his cousins and friends in his village to move to Gurgaon and become Baxi drivers. “The company is supporting us in getting loans from banks to buy the bikes and also insurance, registration and training. This is a good option for young men from small towns to earn. Many could also earn while they finish their studies,” he says, having himself enrolled for a long-distance LLB course.
He reckons that he will be able to earn between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 a month to start with, after paying for fuel and the 10% revenue sharing with Baxi. The Baxi app, which provides Shamveer and other drivers with GPS services, also functions as a meter — with Rs 10 as the base fare for the first kilometre and Rs 7 per km after that. The ride from Sikandarpur Metro Station to CyberCity works out to under Rs 30.Ashutosh Johri, managing director and cofounder of 74 BC Technologies, the company that runs the Baxi service, has worked with the Haryana government for the last four months in clearing the decks for the launch of Baxi in Gurgaon. “Our business will provide a viable revenue stream for the operator-driver given that the service will work out much cheaper than cabs or autorickshaws, and will tap into a huge base of blue and white-collar workers looking for commutes in Gurgaon from metro and rapid metro stations, bus-stops, malls and residential areas... We plan to go to other cities in Haryana such as Faridabad, Sonepat and Bahadurgarh after this and to other states as well,” says Johri. 74 BC has raised $1.5 million in seed funding from individual investors such as Manish Kheterpal (WaterBridge Ventures), Alok Mittal, former India head of Canaan Partners and founder of Indifi Technologies, and Kulpreet Sahni (MDL Energy).
Manu Rana, cofounder of the company, feels that women too would be attracted to the service because it is convenient and cheap. “Having talked to many women commuters we found that they feel safer on bikes because they are ‘open’. Besides, we ensure police verification of all our drivers,” says Rana a classmate of Johri at IIT-Delhi from the 1995 batch. “While bike taxis can be hailed at governmentallocated stands, a customer can also use our mobile app to locate vehicles,” says Rana, who gave up his job as chief product officer at Bharti Soft-Bank and has been working on the Baxi app for the last few months. He feels that the company will be able to scale up to around 1,000 Baxis in the next few months.
Saturday: 12:30 pm
Location: JMD Megapolis, Sohna Road, Gurgaon
Arunabh Madhur gave up a 15-year career in brand, media and digital content marketing to set up M-Taxi, the second company that has launched bike taxis in Gurgaon. “You’re our first lady customer and I will take you for this ride myself,” says Madhur, a biker himself and an enthusiastic member of a Gurgaon super bike club.
“India is the largest market and manufacturing base for two-wheelers and bike taxis have worked well in countries with similar demographics and traffic problems,” explains Madhur as he hands me a disposable net cap to wear below the compulsory helmet for hygiene and helps me fix the buckle tightly. M-Taxi will follow the fleet-ownership model and has now got on board 10 drivers. “We have tied up with a big staffing company to provide trained drivers, who will be our employees,” he explains.
The Saturday afternoon traffic on Sohna Road is chaotic as we’re off on a rather bumpy 4-km ride. There’s a rush of commuters all around, comprising office-goers, residents and mall visitors. While there are no official auto stands, there are many being hailed at roadsides. Cabs and buses too add to the chaos. Obviously, Madhur eyes the rush of commuters as potential customers.
“We are working in partnership with our staffing company to provide training in safe lane-driving, use of indicators and other important road safety issues to our drivers,” says Madhur who has raised an undisclosed amount from angel investors to launch operations and is looking at closing a second round of funding soon. Besides providing cost and time advantage, M-Taxi is looking at large-scale employment generation for young men. “We will also start working with an NGO soon to provide training to women drivers for our bikes,” Madhur adds.