Aishwarya Ramesh

Zipping into 2022 - a glance at Rapido’s plans for the road ahead

An interview with Rapido’s chief marketing officer Amit Verma about the challenges that plague the bike taxi industry in India.

Two-wheelers are something of a point of contention in society. Young men and women riding solo, are frowned upon for zipping through the streets, and couples are looked down upon even more. At a time like this, a company like Bengaluru-based Rapido is attempting to popularise bike taxis in India.

A person can download the Rapido app on their smartphone and book rides for short distances at fares cheaper than what an autorickshaw would charge for the same distance.

Rapido came up with an ad campaign earlier this year, featuring Bollywood star Ranveer Singh and Telugu actor Allu Arjun. Over a call, Amit Verma, head of marketing and growth at Rapido, mentions that the choice of actors (Singh and Arjun) for this campaign was based on their individual mass appeal.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Amit Verma</p></div>

Amit Verma

Rapido, as a brand, is still trying to find its footing in India - a country where there may be reservations about men and (especially) women getting on a bike with a stranger. Bike taxis are popular in other Asian countries, such as Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Phillippines. Some popular brands in these markets are GoJek, Uber Moto, Ola Bike, and Grab.

Verma admits that so far, 70-75 per cent of the (bike taxi) users in India are men, and 20-25 per cent are women. He adds that 15-20 per cent of Rapido’s rider fleet is made up of women drivers, but when it comes to pillion riders, 80-85 per cent of them are still men.

Women’s safety remains a topic of concern, when it comes to bike taxis. It may be frowned upon for a woman to ride a bike taxi in public, as onlookers may assume that the driver is actually the pillion rider’s boyfriend or friend. Even though we’re nearly in 2022, ‘log kya kahenge’ (or what will people think) still remains a cause for concern.

“If a woman feels like something is off, there is a customer care number that she can reach out to, and we ensure a quick response. We also conduct gender sensitisation workshops to create awareness among our male drivers about women’s safety issues. We monitor the pickup and drop of every ride closely, and are also attempting to onboard more female captains so that our female pillion riders feel safer taking our taxis,” Verma adds.

According to him, the company’s TG is essentially those commuters who don’t want to spend a lot of money on travel. The company conducted a research to find out which personality traits appeal the most to them and the ad campaign with Singh and Arjun, in a local flavour, is the end result.

Verma mentions that India, as a country, can be split into two or three markets that are radically different. The company surveyed the Hindi speaking market (HSM) in the country, as well as the southern market, to find out which actor had appeal across Karnataka, Kerala, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. And so, the actor Rapido selected was Arjun.

However, beyond just reach, Tier-II, III cities and their infrastructure, pose challenges for the company, as the roads may not be in an ideal condition for safe driving. Verma reveals that 50-65 per cent of the business comes from the top seven metro cities - Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

He adds that the commute radius differs in Tier-I and II cities - with the former clocking in 15-20 km, whereas Tier-II and III cities clock in an average of 3-5 km.

Even though offices are reopening amid the looming threat of the new Omicron strain of the Coronavirus, Verma informs us that there are some people who do not want to invest in private transport, but want to avoid public commute at the same time.

"When it comes to COVID, proximity is a concern for users."

“When it comes to COVID, proximity is a concern for users. When you’re taking a bike taxi, you’re riding in an open environment and may, hence, feel safer. In a closed environment, chances of getting infected are much higher and people reach their destination faster on a bike taxi,” Verma explains.

Earlier in 2020, when the national lockdown was in place, it did affect Rapido’s business - but Verma reveals that the company’s business model is not entirely B2C.

As a service provider, Rapido has four verticals, namely - customer pickup, parcel pickup and drop service (similar to WeFast or Dunzo), food delivery for brands like Swiggy and Zomato, and grocery delivery for the likes of BlinkIt (formerly Grofers) and BigBasket. Though business had slowed down in the initial months, it did not come to a complete standstill.

Verma adds that the company is essentially a digital first brand. Throughout the year, it maintains visibility on performance marketing channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, etc., but the campaign intent is to reach out to those who are not consuming online content.

"We have invested a lot of money on TV, radio and in the recent T20 World Cup that happened in November."

“We have invested a lot of money on TV, radio and in the recent T20 World Cup that happened in November. We started the campaign on November 5, and 60 per cent of our spends have gone towards TV and radio. Then, we spent another 15 per cent on outdoor advertising and the remaining 25 per cent has gone on digital advertising, which includes OTT platforms,” he explains.

Before joining Rapido, Verma worked at Zoomcar (a car rental company). He classifies travel into three broad types - short distance (3-8 km), mid-mile (10-25 km within city limits), and outstation (where the car is rented for short road trips).

He adds that the business models of the two companies (Rapido and Zoomcar) are slightly different. But his learnings at Zoomcar about mobility, carried forward to his stint at Rapido, to help him handle challenges under different circumstances.