Arjit Soni is the Founder and CEO of MYBYK India. An environmentalist and a Chartered Accountant by qualification, he is passionate about solving urban mobility issues through cycling and public transport.
MYBYK is a public bicycle sharing service of Indian origin aimed at encouraging the use of bicycles by enhancing the ownership experience, making it hassle free and more convenient. MYBYK is also aimed at addressing the core issue of first and last mile connectivity associated with public transport thereby making it more accessible, convenient, economic and time efficient.
Started in Ahmedabad, the MYBYK services are now available across five more cities of India namely Mumbai, Indore, Kochi, Nagpur and Udaipur. The company is poised to launch e-bike rentals starting from Ahmedabad and gradually scale up operations in other cities.
On 10th March 2023, Arjit Soni made an appearance in Shark Tank India which is an Indian Hindi-language business reality television series that airs on Sony Entertainment Television. The show is the Indian franchise of the American show Shark Tank. It shows entrepreneurs making business presentations to a panel of investors or sharks, who decide whether to invest in their company. Arjit represented MYBYK and the entire nation watched it on national television.
In this article, we chat with Arjit about his experience at Shark Tank India, his plans for MYBYK and his larger vision for cycling cities in India.
How was your experience making a pitch in front of the sharks?
It was certainly a once in a lifetime experience, one of those things in life that money can’t buy! Right from the day we received a call from audition, to the endless wait to the day we received final confirmation for shoot, the 4 days of rehearsals and preparation and then finally entering the tank with that music playing loudly, it was surreal and a dream come true!
Was your pitch different in reality then what was shown to the TV audience?
Umm…yes and no. So as we all know, a typical pitch lasts for 60 minutes and what we see on TV is just about 20 minutes. So a lot of discussions that happened don’t make it to the episode and that’s where as an entrepreneur one feels a bit disappointed because there are certain elements of the pitch that you want to be aired but unfortunately get edited out. But then, sadly there’s nothing much one can do about it!
You were shown majorly speaking about the financials of the company, how about the social and environmental impact which MYBYK is making?
So this is where I feel majorly disappointed. The pitch focused more on the solution than the problem and the “Why” – Why people need to adopt public transport? Why electric cars are not the future of mobility? Why roads and flyovers are not really solving the problem of urban mobility? Why people need to accept and adopt public transport? And how MYBYK makes public transport more accessible and convenient by addressing the problem of first and last mile connectivity!
How would you describe MYBYK – ‘a social enterprise into business’ or a ‘business enterprise trying to solve a social problem’?
So when I conceived the idea of MYBYK and decided to pursue it, I was in a dilemma as to whether to set it up as an NGO or set it up as a for-profit enterprise. I eventually decided for the latter because I felt that unless and until there is an incentive in your business model, you will not be able to pursue your objective in a fast, efficient and frugal way. So while, for me as an individual, purpose comes first, sustainability both financial and otherwise is equally important.
If you were to go back to Shark Tank and pitch your idea once again, what would you do differently?
I would have tried to steer the conversation more towards the “Why”!
What are the key areas in which MYBYK is seeking backing by investors to increase volumes and scale in business?
We are seeking backing by equity investors in the area of technology and marketing. We believe, over the last 8+ years we have built a robust operational model that is scalable. We now need to expand our leadership team, invest in technology and marketing to attract more users, retain them and grow. And we are looking for HNI’s and retail investors to debt finance the fleet.
In your view, what are the policy changes that you expect from the government departments?
While there is a lot of push from the Central Government towards encouraging use of cycles and public transport, there is lack of will and intent at the state and city level to adopt those policies and put them into effect. For eg: Post COVID, the Smart Cities Mission came out with the India Cycles4Change campaign and a lot of cities participated in it. But what’s happening now? As soon as the campaign died, so did the initiative from the city. None of the cities are carrying it forward.
So while the policies may be in place, there is lack of will and intent at the city level to actually implement them. Otherwise, its pretty straightforward to understand what we need – dedicated network of protected and shaded bicycle lanes covering the length and breadth of the city. Additionally, if they can help subsidize the cost of bicycles and electric bicycles, it can help us in adopting an aggressive pricing strategy and grow faster.
What are your plans for MYBYK in the next 3-5 years?
With our upcoming electric bike, we wish to go deeper into the existing cities and expand our presence aggressively through marketing. At the same time, we are also looking to expand our presence geographically into other cities and grow organically there. Our aim is to reach 1 lakh bikes in the next 18-24 months and a million bikes in 48-60 months!
In one sentence, what is your idea of an ideal cycling city?
I would like to rephrase that question to “what is your idea of an ideal city?”. And now to answer that, an ideal city is one which prioritizes active forms of mobility be it walking or cycling for short distance commuting and public transport for long distance commuting, where both young and old can roam around freely without feeling unsafe, a city which is greener and has air that is cleaner, in short a more livable city!
What is your message to the people who are ‘fence sitters’ and still hesitate in using a bicycle for commuting?
My humble appeal to them would be to give this combination of Bicycle + Public Transport a try and let the experience address all their questions around weather and safety. Start by getting a bicycle home and make a conscious attempt at substituting your short trips to the grocery store, gym, etc. with a bicycle for the sake of your health and the environment at large.
Photo credits: Arjit Soni/Shark Tank India
Follow Arjit on twitter: @arjitsoni12 and @mybyk_in
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