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Innovate to Impact : Three Enterprises transforming India’s public bus systems

As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India has seen a surge in its mobility demand and a rapid change in travel behaviour. Private vehicles have replaced public transport systems as a preferred mode of transport due to an increase in affordability and simultaneous decline in the quality and quantity of bus systems. Public transit usage has dropped from 69% in 1994 to 38% in 2007. There is a need to augment existing public bus systems, to make them more accessible, attractive and efficient.

Public bus agencies, mandated to provide public transport, can leverage expertise of new-age private enterprises that have disrupted the mobility ecosystem with innovative and cost-effective services and technologies. These solutions add value to the public transport services and improve commuter experience. Public bus agencies can use these innovative services and technologies to augment the quality and operations of their bus systems. However, collaborations between the two stakeholders to explore innovation are often difficult to establish due to regulatory challenges and governmental frameworks.

WRI India’s Better Bus Challenge is generating evidence on how the two stakeholders can work together outside traditional models of engagement and reap the associated benefits. As part of the Challenge, three young enterprises working to transform the public transport scenario, Cityflo, Cell Propulsion and Small Spark Concepts, were selected to partner with bus agencies in different cities and develop their services and technologies in accordance with the on-ground needs of the cities and the bus agencies.

Cityflo, based in Mumbai, is an AC bus daily commute service that enables commuters to buy tickets and reserve seats on buses through the company’s mobile application (app). Cityflo aggregates buses owned by various private parties and operates them on pre-decided routes that connect areas with limited access to formal public transport and poor last-mile connectivity. Periodically, the company re-designs its routes and changes the bus schedules to cater to its demand. Cityflo’s app allows users to buy subscription passes, track their buses in real-time, reschedule or cancel tickets, avail customer support and provide feedback. The in-bus experience has been designed such that passengers can spend their commute time in a meaningful way. The comfort and predictability of the service has enabled the users shift towards public transport from private vehicles, which is a leading cause of congestion, pollution and inadequate parking in urban areas.

Currently, Cityflo is operating 120 buses and serving over 4000 customers per day in Mumbai.

Cell Propulsion, a mobility technology company based in Bangalore, is developing integrated electric power-trains and associated software stack for heavy electric vehicles. The company develops components and systems for connected electric vehicles and aims to accelerate adoption of electric mobility with enhanced safety and comfort. Their proprietary electric vehicle power-train technology can also be used to convert existing petrol- and diesel-powered vehicles to fully-electric vehicles. The company has successfully demonstrated their technology in two-wheelers, auto-rickshaws and cars. Using their electric retrofit technology, Cell Propulsion intends to help electrify vehicles at a fraction of cost of procuring new e-vehicles and extend the operational life of vehicles that would have been scrapped due to aging engines.

Cell Propulsion has partnered with Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) to convert a non-AC diesel bus to electric by scaling up their power-train technology for high voltage-high power applications.

Small Spark Concepts, a Pune-based enterprise, has developed a patent pending air filter called ‘Schörl’ that helps reduce emissions, while also improving fuel efficiency. Founded in December 2015, Small Spark Concepts has already demonstrated the technology in motorcycles, auto-rickshaws and cars, showing a reduction in tailpipe emissions by 40 percent and fuel demand by 30 percent. Small Spark Concepts’ mission is to develop technology that will combat air pollution and reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

The company has partnered with Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) to pilot Schörl in 10 buses owned and operated by the agency as a step towards entering the commercial vehicles market.

The three companies, by means of public-private collaboration, are developing innovative solutions, that will pave the way for a transformed public transit system in India. Private enterprises and public bus agencies should endeavour to work together and create solutions to make bus systems more attractive and a preferred mode of transport.

Information regarding the above-mentioned enterprises have been approved by the respective companies. For more information on the Better Bus Challenge and the three start-ups, click here.

The authors of this statement are Shilpa Kharwal ( and Krithi Venkat (

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