During the pandemic, Kyiv - the capital city of Ukraine - has changed. The local government decided to increasingly focus on the green course by creating a huge amount of bicycle lanes. Even big streets were transformed into two-lane streets and cycling lanes were added. It is a real micro-mobility service paradise, isn't it? Service providers – both global brands and small local companies - responded quickly and took the opportunity to run their businesses there. One of them is Zelectra - a company created by locals, which has just finished a very successful first season.
Launch date: Spring 2021
Fleet: 300 scooters and 350 mopeds
Web page: https://zelectra.com.ua/en/
Team: 25+ team members
Cool fact: 2,500 rides were taken on 250 scooters in 1 day
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/ua/app/zelectra/id1545583319?l=ru
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ride.app
Sergey and Eugine - co-founders of Zelectra - have been friends since childhood. The idea of a micro-mobility business came about when one of their friends told them he had contacts with the manufacturer in China that could provide vehicles if they are interested in starting a business in Kyiv. “We have never worked with scooters before, but thought that we could try to offer a last-mile service. That's how it all started. However, in the beginning, we laughed about the idea and went in separate directions. But somehow this idea didn't let us go. Then we decided to do the calculations. That was the moment when we became really interested in developing a solution,” explains Eugine. This all happened at the beginning of 2019. At the end of the year, both friends understood that they would launch a micro-mobility business in 2020.
Zelectra is one of the most popular brand of scooter/moped sharing in Ukraine
Learning together with the local government
The decision was made to launch in Kyiv - the city familiar to both of them. They hoped to be the first, but unfortunately, the pandemic slightly changed their plans. Global micro-mobility service provider Bolt launched in 2020, while four other companies followed in 2021. One was Zelectra. “The reason we started later was due to technical challenges, as well as some challenges while ordering vehicles. Of course, we had heard that there might be hurdles, but we didn't realize what they really meant,” Eugine recalls. For example, banks were looking at their potential business and thought that they were crazy. They didn't want to take the newly-formed team seriously.
“It was the same story with the government. When they got familiar with Bolt, they had a very poor understanding of what a micro-mobility service is. The scooter as a vehicle was not subject to any regulation. It does not count as transport, and what is an actual micromobility solution? Does the rider need a license? Where is it possible to drive? Are helmets mandatory? Where can vehicles be left? It was a similar story with the electric mopeds with 3kw power that we also offered - they did not correspond to any norms. When we put those vehicles on the street for the first time, we were told that we were breaking the law. Our vehicles didn't have number plates. People were driving all over the place and leaving vehicles on sidewalks. We explained to the government that none of the means of transportation were defined by regulations and finally they accepted this. So now we are growing together,” says Eugine. “On the one hand, we have some additional duties imposed by the government. On the other, the government is helping us a lot. The development of a huge number of cycling lanes changed the attitude of locals not only towards riding bicycles, but also scooters. It was no longer considered to be something weird.”
Hired 26 people on the spot
Zelectra was the smallest company in the market with the fewest vehicles - 300 scooters and 350 mopeds. The company bought scooters from the manufacturer in China, whereas the mopeds were manufactured locally. They didn't build a software platform from scratch. They used the ATOM Mobility solution. Eugene explains that it was important for them to find a reliable partner and not to struggle with development as they were not sure that they could easily find a common language with developers.
“All that we heard and all that we have been told before - it doesn't work that way here in Kyiv. We talked a great deal with different European companies. And what we said is that we, in contrast to them, have to be available 24/7. Our vehicles are often stolen. They have been thrown into the River Dnepra. That's why the first month was tough - we gradually realized that it was one situation how we had imagined things would be, but the reality was completely different. We suddenly had to collect a team of 26 people. We had to buy cars and brand them for the team to be able to serve all vehicles. We paid all our taxes and during the season we succeeded in building a really good team where everyone felt needed,” says Sergey.
“Looking back at our first season, I would say that we are happy that we didn't embarrass ourselves,” adds Eugine. “Our app has 10,000 downloads. We succeeded in creating the rhythm of changing batteries and making vehicles available on streets that are fully operational. By the way, battery life is not as long as the manufacturers had said it would. Batteries had to be changed twice as often. However, during the best day of the season, 2,500 rides were taken on 250 scooters. And this is what we are really proud of, because it is not easy to always find our scooters, but people were apparently looking for them.”
Here to stay for the greener future
Zelectra doesn't reveal the exact number of vehicles they are preparing for the next season, but the amount is going to be significantly higher. In addition, they are planning to launch their service in three to four new cities in Ukraine. “We are here to stay. We do really care about our service, because we want Kyiv to become a green city. We hope that the fact that we are here has also helped the local government to rethink infrastructure, as well as its attitude towards the environment. If we get the chance, we would like to have an all-electric business of scooters, bikes, mopeds, electric cars. We will try to expand and use everything electric to help Kiev become a greener city,” says Eugene, revealing the company’s mission.
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“We spent two years developing a car-sharing app in-house. And even after all our efforts it still wasn't half as good as ATOM Mobility's platform.” – Peter Mraz, GreenGo's Manager, shares how he found the perfect partner in ATOM Mobility.
Launch date: May 2021
Country: Slovenia, operates in 4 cities
Web page: https://greengo.city
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/greengo-by-t2/id1618782932
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=greengo.app
GreenGo is a green vehicle-sharing company based in Slovenia that currently focuses on electric cars.
The company's story is unique in that it's a project that spun out from its parent company T-2, d.o.o., a local telecom provider with over 400 employees. T-2's owner was enthusiastic about green mobility and set out to bring his vision to life – and succeeded. Today, you can find GreenGo's Renault Zoes and Twingos, Cupra Borns, and VW ID.3s in four cities – Ljubljana, Kranj, Trzin, and Logatec.
However, the man who's running the show is Peter Mraz, GreenGo's Manager. While he does enjoy access to the parent company's resources, Peter is single-handedly overseeing the entire project and responsible for its success.
“I do have backup from designers, legal, accounting and so on. And there are maybe 3-4 people who help manage the cars and maintenance. Everything else – it's on me. Thanks to ATOM Mobility, I have been able to manage everything from project start to launch pretty much on my own,” says Peter.
GreenGo's early challenges
Orginally, the idea was to develop the GreenGo car-sharing app in-house – a decision Peter grew to regret.
“It took us two years to develop the app. Even then, it did the job, but it wasn't perfect and it didn't quite go the way we wanted it to. And even after all our efforts it still wasn't half as good as ATOM Mobility's platform,” he shares.
Indeed, this ongoing struggle pushed GreenGo to explore alternative options on the market and, after some market research, they landed on ATOM Mobility. ATOM Mobility ticked their two most important checkboxes – it offered the core functionalities they required and offered fast time-to-market.
Originally“Once we made the switch, we launched in 3 months, though we did already have the cars at the ready, which certainly helped,” Peter continues.
Admittedly, ATOM Mobility didn't immediately fulfil all their needs.
“We had a very specific vision and requirements. ATOM Mobility was great, but didn't have everything we wanted when we started out. But the platform is evolving quickly. Their team develops something new every 2-3 months and it's very good for us. Since they develop for other companies, too, we also benefit from the updates. Now, ATOM Mobility has everything we need and more,” Peter says.
Still, early on, GreenGo were facing an uphill battle with fierce competition. Slovenia already had one high-profile electric car-sharing company that had established itself in the market, had more experience, and was well-respected among its customers and the general public.
What was GreenGo's strategy for finding a foothold in the ecosystem?
A brilliant idea for entering a busy market
GreenGo carved out its market share by leveraging a strategic partnership with Slovenian Railways.
“You see, a lot of tourists arrive in Ljubljana and other cities by train. Either internationally or from the airport. So we started off by placing our vehicles in railway stations, allowing us to be the easy choice top of mind for anyone arriving in the city,” Peter explains.
To further improve convenience for potential customers, GreenGo integrated ATOM Mobility with a local MaaS platform. This allowed people to purchase credits for GreenGo's car-sharing app through the city's own mobility solution.
Not only did this solidify GreenGo as the most accessible solution for any tourist who used the city's app to buy a train ticket, it also connected it to all the local residents that use the city's mobility app in their day-to-day.
Now, you'll find GreenGo in four cities and their customers love them, as suggested by the high app ratings and continuous positive feedback.
In most of the cities, they're using a station based model – where the cars need to be picked up and returned at certain points. However, in the capital they're currently running a hybrid model featuring both free-floating and station-based vehicle sharing.
GreenGo expects to have to switch to a fully station-based model in Ljubljana, too, as the city is pulling the brakes on free-floating vehicle sharing. But they're not too fussed, as this model is easier to manage and can be a better choice for a still-up-and-coming company.
Looking to the future – more vehicle types and a focus on B2B
As any company, GreenGo is eyeing growth and expansion.
“Our vision is to become a leading force in the sharing economy,” Peter highlights.
Expanding their fleet with different types of vehicles, specifically – electric micromobility solutions – is one of the avenues GreenGo is exploring.
In terms of business development, GreenGo has an interesting strategy for the upcoming year, namely, focusing on expanding into the business-to-business (B2B) segment with corporate sharing schemes.
“With B2C, you need a lot of cars, a lot of investment. Electric vehicles are very capital intensive, which poses challenges for a growing company. B2B offers the opportunity to make the maximum from your existing fleet, which will allow B2C expansion later on. Plus, we already have a sort of successful B2B pilot project under our belts,” says Peter, referring to a corporate sharing scheme they launched with their very own parent company.
They made four cars available to T-2 employees, which they can take out under certain conditions and packages for a few hours, a day, or a weekend. This sharing scheme proved to be very popular among employees, and Peter is certain other large companies will also be keen to test out this modern benefit for their workers.
With some ups and downs, GreenGo is steadily carving out its spot in the market.
What would Peter do differently if he had to do it all over again?
“Choose ATOM Mobility from day 1 and save everyone a lot of headaches and resources,” he laughs. “But, seriously, the time-to-market is so fast, I think you could launch a mobility company from zero in one month.”
“Upon our initial interaction with ATOM Mobility, we were immediately drawn to their interface and impressed by the quality of their customer service. Throughout the process, they exhibited great flexibility in their approach and were able to assist us with any difficulties we encountered.”
– Deroy De Bordes, founder of Wheelz
Launch date: October 2021
Web page: https://wheelzgh.com
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/lt/app/id1590136064
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=wheelzgh.app
Wheelz was founded by Deroy De Bordes – an entrepreneur with a diverse background in business, including experience in HR and property development. Originally from Ghana, West Africa, he realized the potential of expanding into emerging markets while residing in the UK. During a trip back to Ghana, he recognized a potential market opportunity for a car-sharing service company.
During that time, traditional taxi services and a laborious car rental process that required your physical presence were the main options for customers in the country. The founder saw the opportunity to fulfill an unmet demand through the creation of a car-sharing service – which led to the launch of Wheelz.
In preparation for the launch, they evaluated multiple software providers and eventually went with ATOM Mobility. According to Deroy, they chose ATOM Mobility because of its superior customer service and user-friendly interface. Its integration with Geotab's fleet management platform was also a significant factor.
Overcoming implementation hurdles
In the process of starting their business, Wheelz faced numerous challenges that required careful consideration and planning.
The company's journey began in the early 2020s when they traveled to Ghana to investigate the local market, identify any potential risks, and gain a thorough understanding of the relevant local laws and regulations.
As a company that heavily relies on connectivity, Wheelz had to address the associated risks of providing convenient and accessible services to its customers.
One significant challenge Wheelz faced was the unique characteristics of road infrastructure in Ghana compared to Europe. This situation necessitated the establishment of safe roadside parking zones, especially as many houses in the target market have gated compounds. To prevent any potential disagreements with other customers and ensure safety, Wheelz had to remind people not to park within these compounds.
Additionally, people may park on backstreets or narrow roads, potentially causing damage or injury to the vehicle. Therefore, Wheelz took extra caution in selecting parking zones and worked closely with their team to identify suitable locations within 10 to 15 minutes of each other. This effort aimed to ensure customers' easy access to their services.
Disrupting traditional services
Introducing a new product to the market posed a significant challenge for Wheelz, as it was unlike the traditional car hire services that customers were accustomed to.
“Our concept was new in a way that it depended solely on smartphones as the main way of accessing our service. The first thing we had to do was test the technology thoroughly to ensure its stability and security before it could be deployed in the field. Then, we needed to familiarize potential customers with the app's functionality.” – Deroy De Bordes
For marketing purposes, the company used a multi-phase approach. The first phase focused on creating brand awareness through billboards, radio, and television ads. The second phase involved marketing campaigns on various platforms, including YouTube, Google, Instagram, Facebook, and banner ads. This generated a significant amount of interest in the product.
Wheelz's pricing strategy was significantly more competitive than traditional taxi services. For instance, a one-hour journey in their most affordable vehicle costs 60 Ghanaian cedi, while a half-hour ride in a traditional taxi would cost around 50 to 60 Ghanaian cedi. This pricing strategy proved to be an attractive offer, as customers sought value for their money.
"Essentially, customers who choose Wheelz can get twice the travel time for their money," Deroy explains.
By introducing this new product and pricing strategy, Wheelz established itself as a disruptor in the market. Now, as the company continues to grow and expand its services, they remain committed to providing excellent customer service and safe, reliable transportation to its clients.
“Though we faced early obstacles, we persevered. Today, our innovative approach to car hire services has earned us a favorable standing in the market.” – Deroy De Bordes
Moving forward: plans for ongoing improvements and expansion
The success of Wheelz thus far has not led to complacency, and the company has no intention of resting on its laurels. In May 2023, they have plans to participate in a trade show in Ghana – this will allow the company to promote its brand and explore the possibility of expanding into new markets across Africa. They are also considering a franchise model to facilitate their expansion efforts.
Wheelz also plans to expand to other cities in Ghana, including Kumasi, Tamale, Takoradi, and Cape Coast. Each of these cities will have a minimum of 10 cars assigned to them. But in the nearest future, the plan is to explore opportunities to increase the number of parking zones across the capital city, Accra.