The mobility sector in India is undergoing a digital transformation. Public bus agencies, usually referred to as State Road Transport Undertakings (SRTUs), are investing millions in setting up Intelligent Transport Systems to improve the efficiency of bus systems. At the same time, mobility entrepreneurs backed by heavy investments, are developing innovative technologies and services to address prevailing mobility issues.
This evolving ecosystem provides a great opportunity for public bus agencies and private enterprises to come together and co-create solutions aimed at augmenting the quality and services of bus systems in our cities. Public agencies can adopt innovative technologies and service models offered by private enterprises, who in return can generate stable revenue streams to support their long-term growth. However, there are several obstacles that impact the success of such collaborations between public bus agencies and private enterprises.
A key challenge is the process of tendering that is followed by public agencies to procure goods and services from the private sector. It requires bidders to meet eligibility criteria such as minimum company turnovers, minimum experience and submission of security deposits. Young enterprises with innovative technology and service models, who want to work with the Government, struggle to meet these stringent requirements and are unable to participate in the bidding process. The traditional tendering process deprives young enterprises a level playing field as compared to established industry players who can easily meet the tender requirements. Though the Central Government has relaxed the provisions for submission of prior turnover and prior experience documents for new enterprises, their inclusion in the bidding processes has been extremely slow and limited. Additionally, the lack of a ‘single window’, makes establishing connections with public agencies a tedious and time consuming process for private enterprises.
Simultaneously, public agencies are sceptical about the ability of young enterprises to execute large scale and investment-heavy government projects. Governments willing to work with new enterprises find it challenging to reach out to them due to a lack of awareness about their solutions, distant geographical locations, and limited networking capacities. There are only a few platforms that enable beneficial business interactions between the private enterprises and transit agencies, where they have the opportunity to become more aware of emerging innovative solutions in the country and test these solutions on-ground.
To foster the co-creation of innovative solutions that augment bus systems in the country, WRI India launched the Better Bus Challenge. It was aimed at generating evidence on how the enterprises and transit agencies can work together outside traditional models of engagement, to implement innovation solutions for the enhancement of bus transport in cities. In particular, the Better Bus Bootcamp acted as a platform for mobility enterprises from across the globe to interact and work closely with leading SRTUs in India. Based on the on-ground needs of our cities and transit agencies, the Bootcamp led to the development of working pilot plans, of which the best solutions are now being rolled out in three cities.
India has established itself as one of the forerunners of innovation in the mobility ecosystem. Technologies and service models developed by private enterprises have the potential to support and transform public bus systems. It is a most opportune moment for the public sector to explore models of engagement with the private sector, which are outside the ambit of traditional practices. The two stakeholders can synergize goals and leverage capacities to test technologies, service models and establish proof of concepts in order to assess their true potential with regard to improving efficiency and the quality of commute.
To know more about the Challenge and the implementation of pilots, please click here.