Bicycle sharing is a new concept in India. But if 22-year-old college student Raj Janagam has anything to say about it, the trend will catch on soon enough.
Janagam wants to push the idea into the mainstream with Cycle Chalao—meaning "ride a cycle"—which is a bike-sharing initiative he started in a university town just outside Mumbai. At about $4 per month, members primarily use the service to commute from class to work and home, but Janagam is now gearing up to expand to allow for long-distance and overnight use. And he's a finalist in the global enterprise accelerator program, the Unreasonable Institute.
"I started Cycle Chalao from the basic frustration over not finding adequate transportation here," founder Raj Janagam tells Fast Company. "It's a response to the inadequacies in public transportation, as well as the congestion."
Cars are a leading source of pollution across India and are responsible for about 62% of the pollution in Mumbai alone. And 97% of Mumbai's population live in "high pollution zones."
Janagam says he found the mass VELIB bike-sharing program in Paris to be particularly inspiring, though he's never visited the city. An MBA student with a focus on social entrepreneurship, Janagam does not own a car and his focus now is on building a scalable model for the business, by focusing on connecting commuters with bicycles at their final commuting legs—be it from the bus stop to home or railway to the office.
Students in particular are "now requesting to go on weekend trips and we can't handle the requests," says Janagam.
"There was one day where we were not operating and a couple of students got very angry with us. That made us realize that the demand is really high. If we don't run it properly there is a lot of backlash."
Funding is also an issue for the young entrepreneur—Cycle Chalao has two operating centers, bike expenses, and insurance expenses to cover, and the demand is soaring.
Janagam has support in the way of mentors and peers involved in social entrepreneurship, but funding is limited. "Social entrepreneurship is still in its nascent stage in India," says Janagam. "We're catching up."
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