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New Mobility Dialogues: Leveraging Data and Fostering Collaboration

On 6th April 2017, WRI India Sustainable Cities in partnership with Startup India program of the Government of India convened the New Mobility Dialogues held in New Delhi, as part of Connect Karo 2017. The New Mobility Dialogues brought together existing and aspiring startups, seasoned entrepreneurs, mobility experts and other stakeholders to learn about new initiatives, tools and collaborations in the new mobility ecosystem.

The sessions included discussions on using commuting data for better decision making in cities, and collaborations between various stakeholders for furthering new and sustainable mobility to create smarter cities.

The Dialogues were kickstarted by Palak Bhatia from Startup India, a flagship initiative by the Government of India which aims to empower startups to grow through innovation and design. Palak spoke on how startups can be recognised under Startup India certified incubators. She also spoke about the relevance of state startup policies that can leverage the regional demographics of its culture and use funds from state government budgets. Eleven of India’s states have formed their own regional and location-specific startup policies. Startup India Hub is the single point of contact for startups and provides knowledge for finance and exchange for all startups across India.

The New Mobility Dialogues consisted of a panel discussion, workshops and a series of talks on three key themes:

● Using mobility data for creating smarter cities

● Collaboration is key to strengthening the mobility ecosystem

● Regulation is a key success factor for the success of startups

Using mobility data for creating smarter cities

Key players in the market are now leveraging data for improving commuter experiences and reducing emissions in cities. For instance, Uber is using data to plan better operations and its global efforts in sharing data with cities through initiatives like the Uber Movement. Rachit Ranjan, Public Policy and Government Affairs Lead from Uber spoke about the importance of reliably estimating travel time and consequently the introduction of Uber Movement - a tool that provides access to anonymized data from over 2 billion trips to help improve urban planning. He emphasized how data can help understand future trends, and cited instances where Uber has successfully used aggregated data to help city planners maintain roads and traffic.

Ankit Jain, Head, Ola Play shared how OlaCabs is using predictive data mapping to make the ride-sharing platform more productive and efficient for the customer and the driver. He spoke about how ridesharing is an integral part at Ola, and their efforts to localize their services for better and efficient rides.

Abbas Rawat, Director, Product Marketing, from KPIT technologies, talked about how non-mobility data can be beneficially used for transportation. He presented the example of a pilot in Pune that KPIT conducted in partnership with a telecom operator, where they collected smartphone data for a week. This analysis helped them understand that mobile network data needs to be combined with electronic ticketing data, CCTV footage, etc. A key learning from their pilot in Pune was that it is imperative to understand local culture – people travel differently in different cities.

At a talk about partnerships with city data, Diego Canales, Tools and Data Innovation Associate, WRI Ross Center for Sustainable Cities shared insights about leveraging open and standardized data for land-use and transportation accessibility analysis through a tool that can quantify urban accessibility. A pilot of the Land-Use and Transport Accessibility tool in Mexico and Bangalore to calculate citywide accessibility of employment opportunities was also carried out. It will help address questions such as: How far does one need to travel? How many opportunities can one reach by using existing transit networks?

Collaboration is key to strengthening the mobility ecosystem

Amit Bhatt, Director-Integrated Transport, WRI India, moderated a panel discussion on building alliances with players especially competitors, and how such partnerships can be beneficial. The panellists in this session were Ankit Singhvi, Director and Founder of NN4 Energy, Rohit Koshi, EIR from Baxi and Arun Bhati, Founder of Orahi.

The informal session began with conversations around building alliances with competitors, convening stakeholders in a nascent market and the benefits and pitfalls of collaborative associations. Ankit spoke about the Electric Mobility Alliance - a unique experiment involving pan-India stakeholders across sectors. The alliance came together to address the gap between policy and implementation of electric vehicles. Ankit further added the significance of partnerships with other key players in the sector such as Ola, Uber and the likes, global electric mobility companies and financing bodies such as ADB, and a pipeline partnership with Tesla.

Rohit Koshy from Baxi, a bike taxi aggregator, shared insights about how Baxi became the biggest and most funded player at a point of time and realised their market potential. They began sharing heat maps with competitors and transport officials. In other states like Bangalore, Hyderabad and others, where they lacked the capacity to expand, they began sharing registration documents and other knowledge gathered with competitors in different cities. Once a state opens registrations, they inform competitors to meet with relevant stakeholders.

Arun Bhati from Orahi, India’s largest carpool application, mentioned that the first thing that they established were certain boundaries with competitors. While the majority of conversations revolved around the concept of carpooling and the motto of sharing costs - there were clear guidelines for the same. He added that several things with competitors are broadly the same, so there is no real fear of poaching as most of carpooling enterprises work around the issue in the same way. The only difference is that their respective parameters may differ.

Regulation is a key success factor for the success of startups

To further discuss urban mobility, Rishabh Sinha, counsel, TRA led an engaging discussion on understanding the function of policy makers and ways in which we can point regulators in the right direction. He emphasised the ground reality of urban mobility and the need for tangible solutions in this space - numerous regulations at the state and the center remain ambiguous for different states and hence make it very difficult to take a concrete stand.

More and more entrepreneurs in India today are engaged in bringing about an impact through their work. Boosting entrepreneurship and building a vibrant startup ecosystem in India is the need of the hour. These were the main takeaways at the end of the session on collaboration, regulations around new mobility and the possibility of better transit in smart cities by leveraging data.

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