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Food, e-commerce delivery constitutes 46% of our primary users: Vogo CEO

The digital-first brand is set for launch in Jaipur, Chandigarh & Gurgaon next year.

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First and last mile connectivity remains an ongoing problem in most parts of India, be it the crowded cities or the remote hinterlands. It is this roadblock in the country’s mobility ecosystem that Vogo Automotive co-founder and CEO Anand Ayyadurai aspired to solve, along with his team of techies. He set out to do this by building a unique platform for daily commuters where they can rent a two-wheeler anytime, and anywhere, for their local travel needs without any human intervention, which also became a vital factor, post pandemic.

Launched in 2016 by the alumni of IITs and IIMs - Padmanabhan Balakrishnan, Sanchit Mittal and Anand Ayyadurai, Vogo is a tech-enabled personal mobility solution provider that offers convenient, affordable and reliable two-wheeler rides, thus making daily commute more predictable and less tedious for scores of commuters. Today, Vogo is among the largest docked scooter rental providers in India with a 20,000-strong fleet and over seven million rides & 70 million kms.

Before setting grounds for his entrepreneurial journey, Ayyadurai dabbled with some of the high-growth start-ups and international corporations like IBM Global Services, AstraZeneca, Brainvalley Solutions and GE Commercial Finance. He also had brief stints as the director – Retail at Flipkart and associate vice president at Housing.com. With more than a decade of experience, Ayyadurai has been instrumental in pioneering several radical initiatives across sectors. In his current role, Ayyadurai is responsible for outlining the business strategies of the homegrown startup and managing a meritorious squad. He also envisions untangling the blockades for a sustainable mode of commute.

IndianTelevision.com’s Anupama Sajeet reached out to the entrepreneur to talk about the brand’s future plans amid the changing dynamics of commuters in a post-covid world, and its vision to decongest the country’s roads and electrify its fleet.  Ayyadurai also shared his thoughts behind the brand’s latest #GoSafe campaign, which addressed vaccine hesitancy and urges youngsters to get jabbed for Covid-19.

Edited excerpts:

On the pandemic’s impact on two-wheeler rentals, and the brand’s revenue

The lockdown has impacted the urban mobility sector at large. With stay and work from home being the new normal, there has been a shift in trends of usage. People are more concerned about safety and hygiene and having the convenience of a vehicle on-the-go. Keeping this in mind, we introduced our short-term rental product Vogo Keep, in April last year which saw quite a positive response. Instead of opting for point-to-point commute and hourly rentals, users could rent a vehicle for a day, weeks or month at a nominal cost. This gave them the flexibility of using a vehicle as per the lockdown norms and hours of commute allowed and also keep a safe commute option with them. While the number of rides per day have reduced over the last year due to the pandemic, the short-term rental plans have helped us maintain higher ARPU (Average revenue per user).

On the brand’s media mix and how it has evolved during the last year

Being a digital-first brand, we have primarily focused on leveraging digital touchpoints for our brand’s media mix. Social community and performance marketing have traditionally played a pivotal role for us and continue to do so, supported by hyper-local offline outreach activities to drive pointed use cases. We have also started utilising our 20000+ strong vehicles as our brand connect points and keep trying out different marketing campaigns with a one-to-one focus where we can leverage our scooters to generate visibility with pop-ups and interactive design wraps and compliment the same with an online awareness

On Vogo’s evolving consumer base and target group

Since our launch in 2016, up until the pandemic, nearly half of our consumers used Vogo for Office commute. Nearly 28 per cent of our consumers used it for personal work, while 17 per cent used it for leisure activities. Post pandemic, there has been an e-commerce boom in the cities, so currently food and e-commerce delivery constitutes 46 per cent of our primary users. As most companies continue to work from home, office commute has declined to 22 per cent while personal usage is at 19 per cent. Another new category of users during the pandemic is that of the frontline workers who make for 8 per cent of our consumers.

Given how the pandemic is here to stay for a while and e-commerce is here to stay forever, I would say our future TG would be a mix of office goers, on-demand service workers and those who step out to run errands/ shopping. Once colleges and universities open up, we could see an increase in usage by students.

On the changing dynamics of commuters in a post-Covid world.

The pandemic has instigated some major customer psyche shifts. Currently, the top priority of every commuter is safety, followed by affordability and accessibility. Public transportation as well as car-sharing are considered risky at the moment. This opens up a huge market for emerging shared micro-mobility as they minimise human interaction. It’s also affordable for short distances and emergencies, while being the ideal and fastest way to travel in congested urban spaces. Also, short-term subscriptions are more practical than buying a personal vehicle.

On the brand’s business strategies in the post pandemic world

Up until the pandemic, Vogo only offered daily rides under the package ‘Vogo Now’. Once the first wave struck, people were averse to sharing vehicles more regularly and on an hourly basis with others. Also with the lockdown restrictions in place, users wanted a product which gave them the flexibility of having a vehicle for personal usage without sharing with others and investing into. So, we introduced ‘Vogo Keep’, our consumer-centric subscription package, whereby riders can rent scooters for up to a month at a nominal price. As of July 2021, our customer retention has gone up by 8 per cent (from 34 per cent to 42 per cent) in Hyderabad and three per cent (from 46 to 49 per cent) in Bangalore and Hyderabad combined.

We also managed to fix costs by experimenting with the franchise model in Hyderabad. Instead of setting up our own docks, we boarded franchise partners in all the main areas in the city, which act as docks from where people could drop and pick up vehicles. The docked model allows us to keep track of our scooters and ensures that the scooters undergo a strict maintenance protocol after each completed ride and a four-step sanitisation process before it is picked up by the customer. As these franchise owners already had space in these areas, we unlocked value for them and saved substantial amounts on rent. Today, 100 per cent of our docks in Hyderabad are franchises.

Furthermore, our keyless scooters enable the riders to start their trip just by scanning the QR code—no contact, no hassle. The integration of IoT has helped in developing a human-machine interface that allows for minimum human intervention to start and stop the scooter with the help of Bluetooth.

On roping in influencers for the brand’s latest #GoSafe campaign and the ROI

Vaccine hesitancy is a big challenge today globally, especially when it comes to COVID-19. In India, as many 62 per cent people indicated their unwillingness to take a jab when the vaccination program started in January this year, as per a survey by Local Circles. The objective of the campaign was to generate maximum impressions and get as many people to participate in generating awareness about vaccination. Given that we had created scooter stickers and IG filters with “punny” messages like “holy shot” and “it’s my jab”, we decided to take a humorous route. Hence, the list of influencers Rahul Subramanian, Gowtham Shravan Kumar, Zaynab and Ashmitha were a great fit. We had over 3.5 lakh people engage with the IG filters and influencer posts.

We also integrated the #GoSafe campaign into our app, and rewarded people with free rides for being a good samaritan, getting vaccinated and uploading their vaccination certificates. We gave away free rides worth ₹4 lakhs.  With a mix of social and in-app communication we received 1200+ bookings out of which 376 were new users and total revenue which was 5.6x of the amount spent on the campaign.

On expansion plans beyond the South market

Currently we have 20,000+ scooters operating in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mysore across 500+ docking points. In August 2021, we launched in Udupi and Mangalore. The plan is to ride out pan India and target a wider geographic spread. We are looking at cities like Jaipur, Chandigarh and Gurgaon as our upcoming set of launches next year.

We are also gradually moving towards adopting more electric vehicles. Currently 10 per cent of our fleet is electric and we are also in the process of building our own electric two-wheeler.

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