Q: How did you build Econduce’s shared-use business model given Mexico’s preference for car ownership?
A: Based on our background in electric vehicles and having seen the motorbike market evolve since 2011, we realized that people were looking for alternatives to sitting in traffic on a daily basis. The concept of shared economy is changing many industries including the mobility sector. The development of sustainable intelligent cities is also going to have a significant impact, obliging governments to implement efficient transportation systems and broader mobility plans that promote responsible private vehicle use. These factors led us to the idea of a shared scooter business model. Scooters are a great alternative to Mexico City’s traffic and their size makes them extremely practical.
Ecobici was the best example we could follow. The city has gradually embraced the cycling culture, there is new and better infrastructure and mobility regulations have been put in place. Econduce is following in those footsteps, promoting a responsible mobility culture among all users. We offer free orientation programs for all our customers in which we explain how the scooter works and give them tips about safe driving.
Q: How did you define the payment plan for your services. Has it proved realistic in terms of running costs now that the plan is operational?
A: We implemented our pilot program with defined initial prices, which is gradually changing as we learn more about the business. The orientation is completely free of charge. We also cover all the maintenance, charging and insurance services. We know how much we have to make per user to cover costs so we made our business plan based on that strategy. In terms of maintenance costs, our scooters come from China and there are no official shops for electric vehicles yet. Therefore, we manage our own maintenance and repair operations, importing all the material we need from our vehicle supplier.
Q: How popular has the company's Bótalo service been among Econduce's customers?
A: We thought it would be a more popular option because it allows customers to pick up a scooter in the center of the city, for example, and leave it wherever they want, even if there is no station nearby. Although some customers use the Bótalo service every day, most are more familiar with the Ecobici model where the unit is returned to a station post-use. Our customers can leave the scooter anywhere in the Econduce area and we will pick it up for an additional fee of MX$50 (US$3). We designed this service mostly because of the weather. Obviously, there is an inherent risk in this service but we ensure our users understand that the scooter is their responsibility until we pick it up.
Q: What is the process for reserving and using a scooter?
A: Once customers take the orientation course, they sign a contract and receive a radiofrequency card that allows them to use the scooters. They can reserve a unit through an app and pick up the unit assigned to them at a station. If they had not reserved a unit, the station assigns the unit with the most battery life. Customers use that same card to start the scooter.
Our electric system requirements are straightforward. The units have standard plugs that fit in any outlet and the user simply has to unplug the unit and plug it in again after use. Initially, we approached large companies like GE and Schneider Electric to help us with the electrical design for the scooter but in the end we developed the entire station ourselves. We also designed our own fleet management system to know how many scooters are in use, the routes users are taking and the history of each of our customers
The entire infrastructure belongs to the company. In mid2015 we had 14 stations throughout the city, and having received an order for 100 units, we closed the year with 30 stations. As a company that began with a fleet of 50 scooters and 1,000 customers, we have ambitious goals. We see Econduce as a solution for large and mediumsized cities. We want to close 2016 with 500 units and right now our priority is Mexico City.