When Raj Janagam, 24, and Jui Gangan, 24, started a bicycle-sharing system called Cycle Chalao in 2010 in the city, they were optimistic that the mode of transport would be a hit among frustrated citizens who rely on autos and taxis for short-distance travel. Two years hence, however, the challenges in sustaining the model have forced the duo to shut shop.
“We found no support from the government to turn this into a public infrastructure project, and it was difficult to sustain the project after having invested Rs 20 lakh through loans and investors,” said Janagam, who graduated from Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, Vile Parle.
“Over the last four months, we have been trying to convince investors to stay on but as they started to pull out due to the long wait for contracts and permissions, we realized it was time to shut shop," he added.
The team had approached the ministry of urban development last year for funding, but did not get a response. While things looked better when they approached the Pune municipal corporation to start the bicycle sharing system there, the proposal fell through and the project didn’t take off.
“The bicycle-sharing system in several foreign countries is usually funded by the government, so why can’t the government do it here?” rued Janagam.
The Cycle Chalao project was kicked off on a pilot basis in Mulund in February 2010, when the team purchased 60 bicycles, with 30 available for daily transport from the railway station. They received almost 750 registrations at that time, mostly from students of a neighbouring college, and the users were charged a nominal subscription fee.
“Some of the main challenges were finding parking spots since there were several permissions required,” explained Janagam. “Even for getting advertisements on the bicycles, which turned out to be our primary revenue, permissions turned out to be a big hassle," he added.