A private two-wheeler renting company called Yulu has become an unlikely lifeline for many in Bengaluru, in the wake of job losses due to the pandemic. Many, including interstate migrants, have taken up delivery work as a stopgap measure to ensure their continued livelihood. And amid rising fuel prices, renting electric bikes with no ownership costs have proven to be a game-changer for numerous workers. Vishal from Darjeeling started working with food delivery aggregator Zomato in May after he lost his job as a bartender in the city. â€śI had initially taken a scooter from my friend but the money I had to spend on petrol was way too much. Almost half of my dayâ€™s earnings were going for fuel expenses. I used the petrol scooter for the first two-three weeks and I was paying around Rs 300 per day for fuel alone,â€ť he told TNM.
â€śFor [Yulu], I have to spend a little over Rs 1,200 for the week and I can use it as much as I can for the entire week. I can change bikes if the battery runs out,â€ť he added.
He said, on average, he saves Rs 5,000 per month without having to pay for renting or owning a scooter. In addition, he does not have to worry about maintenance and repairs. Vishal is not alone. Himanshu, from Odisha, who until recently was working as a security guard at a commercial establishment, also lost his job after the second wave. He is now dependent on electric bikes. Himanshu, who hails from Odisha, has been attached to Swiggy over the last three months. Other than saving money on fuel, he said, â€śWith this bike, the additional trouble of dealing with traffic cops is also eliminated. Many times, bikers are harassed by police and even once you are caught, one has to shell out more than Rs 500 at least,â€ť Himanshu said.
Also read: Food delivery workers tell their story on Twitter, say it's a losing game
Another migrant worker, Akash Manigere from Bidar, came to the city after losing his job in Pune. He got a job as a delivery worker at Shadowfax, a last mile logistics service provider. â€śSince I have been out of work for a while, I did not have money. After I saw many food delivery workers using this, I asked the company people if I can use this, and they allowed me to. So I have the option to pay on a per day basis too,â€ť he said.
While Yulu started primarily as a service that bridges the first and last mile connectivity for public transport users, an emerging new user base has forced it to introduce a new product offering. Yulu offers cycles and electric bikes which can be rented on their app. In an interview with TNM, Amit Gupta, co-founder and CEO at Yulu, said, â€śFor the same price, for our new user group we are introducing Yulu Dex in addition to the existing Miracles for our delivery partner clients. This has a better quality suspension with a broader seat and has a carrier at the back. This makes it far more comfortable for delivery executives to use this for long hours compared to our initial target users meant for first and last mile connectivity. By next month, we will make around 6000-7000 Dex ready for Bengaluru.â€ť
He added, â€śNaturally since there is a rise in hyperlocal deliveries due to the pandemic, our product has been adopted for that purpose. We are helping people earn their livelihood even if they donâ€™t have a driving license. On the other hand, for people who were using petrol bikes earlier, we are making their life better because of our cost effectiveness.â€ť
Amit explained that the company is limiting the number of delivery personnel using their vehicles to around 2,000 for Bengaluru to stay true to their goal of solving the first and last mile mobility problem. â€śOn a monthly basis, roughly 5,000 delivery personnel use our vehicle in Bengaluru as some of them also use it for their part time jobs,â€ť he said.
But are these bikes safe for this purpose?
Ashish Verma, a professor at IISc and a Transportation Systems Engineering expert, said there may not be any safety issue with mechanical design on the Yulu bikes, however, road safety issues may arise to the users of Yulu because of driving in mixed traffic along with other fast moving motorized vehicles.
â€śIn fact, this road safety issue is similar to that of bicyclists on our roads, since there is not much speed differential between traditional bicycles and Yulu bikes. As such, if safe cycle-lanes are provided on roads, then it is safer to allow Yulu bikes also on the cycle lanes, as long as their dynamic characteristics are similar to cycles,â€ť he added.
He further said with wider adoption of such vehicles, there will be a need for some regulatory framework for their safe and organised use.