Ofo Inc. and Beijing Mobike Technology Co. bicycles sit parked on a sidewalk outside a subway station in Shanghai, China. (Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg)  

Startup Street: Mobike Follows Rival Ofo To India

This week on Startup Street, Chinese bicycle sharing startup Mobike enters India; a one-year old startup looking to capitalise on India’s underserved feminine hygiene market with its environment-friendly products; co-creator of Android may be gearing up to sell his smartphone startup.

Here’s what went on:

China’s Mobike Enters India

App-based bicycle sharing platform Mobike has forayed into India by launching its services in Pune, nearly five months after rival Ofo ventured into the country.

The Beijing-headquartered startup has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Pune Municipal Corporation, in line with the municipality’s ambitious ‘Pune Cycle Plan’ launched in 2016, according to its press release. “The focus is on the development of a sustainable urban transportation system and smart city solution to reduce traffic congestion,” it said.

We are working with a number of cities and are confident that the launch in Pune will be the first of many such partnerships with city administrations in India, allowing us to make cycling the most accessible, affordable, safe and convenient mode of urban transport in India.
Vibhor Jain, CEO, Mobike India

Mobike will offer its iconic orange bikes in the Kothrud suburb of Pune that boasts of dedicated cycle lanes. It will initially charge Rs 10 for a 20-minute ride. That’s a promotional price. The regular price has not been disclosed yet.

The Tencent-backed startup has also partnered the Bhubaneswar Development Authority and will provide 2,000 GPS-fitted bicycles, which will be made available before the Hockey World Cup, scheduled to be held in Bhubaneswar from November 28 this year, the authority’s Vice Chairman Krishan Kumar told reporters earlier this month.

To use the service, users will have to download the Mobike app, register and scan the QR code on the bicycle. The bikes will be equipped with GPS and a smart-lock technology. Scanning the QR code will instantly unlock it.

A Mobike hire bicycle sits parked at a sidewalk in Singapore (Photographer: Paul Miller/Bloomberg)  
A Mobike hire bicycle sits parked at a sidewalk in Singapore (Photographer: Paul Miller/Bloomberg)  

“Having lived in India for several years, I can fully appreciate the positive impact that a smart bicycle share culture will bring to the residents here,” said Mark Lin, head of international operations of Mobike, in the release. “Our rollout in Pune is just the start of this journey.”

Alibaba-backed Ofo launched its services in seven cities in January. Till last year, Mobike and Ofo investors were in talks to push China’s two largest bike-sharing startups into a merger, aimed at ending a costly competitive battle. Instead, they took their battle overseas. With India, Mobike enters its 17th country of operations.

In the bicycle sharing space in India currently, ride hailing startup Ola offers Ola Pedals targeted at technology parks and universities. Ford-backed Zoomcar has a rental service called PEDL and has deployed over 3,000 bicycles across three cities. In December, Amit Gupta, co-founder of InMobi, stepped down to start his own cycle-sharing company Yulu.

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Carmesi To Capitalise On India's Under-Serviced Menstrual Hygiene Market

Carmesi, a bio-degradable sanitary napkin maker, expects an eightfold increase in its revenue for the ongoing financial year, in an underserved feminine hygiene market.

The startup is growing at the rate of 30 percent month-on-month. It expects to boost its revenue to Rs 8 crore by March 2019 from Rs 1 crore at the end of March 2018, Founder and Chief Executive Officer Tanvi Johri told BloombergQuint.

Carmesi’s napkins are made from the antibacterial, absorbent and plant-based fibres of corn and bamboo. It offers monthly home delivery service, attractive packaging and disposable systems.

India is one of the least penetrated markets for menstrual hygiene—even less than Kenya at just 20 percent, Johri said. In comparison, China stands at around 70 percent. Several other brands are now trying to address this issue. The government has also launched the Suvidha scheme at over 3,200 centers to make biodegradable pads available at an affordable price. The market is expected to be valued at more than Rs 3,500 crore ($522 million) by 2020, she said.

Carmesi is a premium brand aimed at both tier 1 and 2 cities. Its all-natural chemical-free products prevent infections, allergies and skin rashes, Johri said.

Proper disposal of sanitary wastes is crucial. A Carmesi pad takes 6-12 months to completely degenerate compared to synthetic napkins that can take 800-900 years.

Carmesi is now gaining traction, said Johri. She expects to service 30,000 customers monthly by March 2018 compared with 5,000 now. The product has resonated with most of their clients, she said.

Our products have defied the popular perception that a product like ours can only resonate with women in the metros. We, in fact, service about 30 percent of our orders in tier 2 cities and have seen a very high retention rate among these customers. This proves that women are actually looking for better and healthier alternatives.
Tanvi Johri, Founder, Carmesi

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Android Co-Creator May Sell His Smartphone Startup

Andy Rubin, venture partner at Redpoint Ventures, smiles during the Bloomberg Technology Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)
Andy Rubin, venture partner at Redpoint Ventures, smiles during the Bloomberg Technology Conference in San Francisco, California, U.S. (Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

Andy Rubin, who created the world’s most popular mobile operating system Android, is considering selling his smartphone startup.

Essential Products Inc., which he co-founded last year, has cancelled the development of a new smartphone and hired Credit Suisse Group AG to advise on a potential sale, people familiar with the matter told Bloomberg. The startup is now actively selling itself to potential suitors, one of the people said.

Rubin had launched the Essential Smartphone last year to great fanfare, particularly among Android purists. The startup had spent nearly $100 million on developing its smartphone which was manufactured by Foxconn.

Despite being one of the first smartphones with an all-screen front, sales of the Essential phone struggled to match the hype due to some technical issues and its steep $699 price. The company had to reduce the price by $200, which helped to increase sales.

The Essential Phone. (Source: Essential Products Inc.)
The Essential Phone. (Source: Essential Products Inc.)

An Essential spokeswoman declined to comment about the company’s future, according to Bloomberg. However, Rubin took to Twitter for a response.

Rubin has been developing phones for nearly 20 years. After leaving Google in 2014, he formed Playground Global, an incubator that has raised about $300 million from the likes of Amazon, Tencent and Redpoint. Essential is part of the same incubator.