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May 23, 2024
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Bike-Taxis Offer Sustainable, Affordable Last-Mile Connectivity, Help Create Jobs, Opine Experts

Last-Mile Connectivity

There was an urgent need for sustainable mobility solutions in India to combat the challenge of air pollution and bike-taxis could offer that said senior industry professionals and experts in the field, addressing a roundtable discussion on the ‘Role of Bike-Taxis in India’s Mobility Landscape’, presented by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), in partnership with Uber, on May 9, 2024.

“Electrification of the fleet is not going to reduce the number of vehicles plying on the road. To reduce the number of vehicles, Government shall adopt Travel Demand Management (TDM) measures, like congestion pricing, LEZ etc. Recently, the Transport Department of the Delhi Government notified the ‘Delhi Motor Vehicle Aggregator and Delivery Service Provider Scheme, 2023’, which mandates that bike taxis should be operational in electric mode only. Considering such policy-level interventions, E-Bike-taxis could be a perfect market fit, offering clean first and last-mile connectivity while complementing public transport usage by providing easy access to the transit stations,” said Sourav Dhar, Programme Lead of Mobility at Council on Energy, Environment, & Water (CEEW).

Aishwarya Raman, Executive Director, OMI Foundation, said, “There’s a misconception that embracing digital mobility services will result in revenue loss from commercial vehicle registrations. However, revenue from GST paid by mobility platforms—covering not just taxi cabs but also auto-rickshaw and bike rides—far surpasses that generated solely from 10-year permit-based registrations for commercial vehicles. Exploring alternative revenue streams is imperative for sustainable growth.”

She added, “Bike-taxis offer crucial last-mile connectivity and accessibility, filling a gap in transportation infrastructure. They also serve as effective tools for road and night safety interventions, particularly for young women who prioritise safety and vigilance from platform providers. Recognising bike-taxis as legitimate entities and enhancing safety features are essential steps forward.”

The roundtable was addressed by industry captains, thinktanks, academia and various relevant stakeholders from the environment and sustainability verticals. It provided a platform for discussing the evolving landscape of urban mobility in India with strategic insights from industry experts. Among those who spoke at the roundtable were Dr. Niti Bhasin, Professor, Delhi School of Economics; Sharif Qamar, Associate Director, Transport and Urban Governance, The Energy and Resources Institute; Raghavan Viswanathan, Associate Partner – Deal Advisory, Klynveld Peat Marwick Goerdeler (KPMG); Sourav Dhar, Programme Lead of mobility, Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), and Dr. Dhanya MB, economist, VV Giri National Labour Institute.

KPMG was the Knowledge Partner of the roundtable. Raghavan Viswanathan, Associate Partner—Deal Advisory, KPMG, said, “Today, the primary concern for daily commuters revolves around navigating through traffic congestion. While public transport serves as a lifeline, the challenge lies in reaching bus stops or metro stations, causing additional stress. In such scenarios, bike-taxis emerge as crucial feeder services, playing a pivotal role in India’s mobility landscape.”

“The key takeaways from the research done by KPMG are that bike taxis help generate jobs. India boasts nearly 1 million gig workers, with bike taxi drivers constituting nearly 50% of this workforce. Last year, the sector showed promise, with the potential to reach 2.3 million, but due to regulatory challenges, approximately 80% of these workers remain underutilised,” Viswanathan added.

The experts engaged in deliberations on topics such as the impact of bike taxis on urban mobility in India, income opportunities generated by them, their sustainability and environmental impact, as well as the regulatory standards to facilitate industry growth. The roundtable consultations aimed to ensure robust motorised connectivity, sustainability, low cost of travel, and employment for a gig economy.

Revathy Pradeep, Researcher, The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), said, “While bike-taxis are seeing organic growth in parts of the country, the electrification of bike taxis along with the need for driver training to prevent road crashes and enhance safety are critical areas of focus. While bike-taxis significantly reduce the time needed for last-mile connectivity, we must be cautious about the vehicle models being used.”

Speaking about the regulatory framework, Dr Niti Bhasin, Professor, Delhi School of Economics, said, “An effective regulatory framework for bike taxis requires coordination between the Centre and the States. While bike taxis are contributing to employment and decongestion in the transportation ecosystem of India, the unique socio-cultural aspects related to this industry also merit attention. Further, it is also important to understand how bike taxis can serve as a viable alternative to e-rickshaws, particularly in the context of last -mile connectivity.”

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