They are willing to deliver things for you, without adding to Bangalore’s pollution levels. BHUMIKA K. introduces you to Cyclercity, for an eco-friendly cycler messenger service
Two friends who’ve been together 14 years through school and beyond, would cycle together around Bangalore, but felt cycling should go beyond the recreational activity it was becoming. Stuck in a traffic jam one day, the wheel started spinning in their mind — to set up an eco-preneurship that integrates an eco-friendly cycling messenger service, create more employment, and be replicated in smaller towns and cities where cycling is more feasible.
Niranth Bymana and Rajiv Singh, classmates from Army Public School, Bangalore, started Cyclercity two months ago as a test project.
Till date their “messengers” on bicycles have delivered forgotten sunglasses, pen-drives with that presentation which got left behind at home, overdue books, birthday cakes, cheques, office files and drawings, flowers, lunches, photographs…and even repaired curtains! For people of Bangalore who are fed up of battling traffic and jams, or just want to avoid one more tiring commute for a small chore, these green messengers on bicycles may be an easy way out.
And it’s easy on your conscience as you’re doing your bit to reduce our collective carbon footprint. Eventually they hope to tie up with the growing local biking community of the city (more on that later).
Going by the success the venture has seen, they are ready to launch into their next phase now, where they will link volunteer cyclists to charitable causes, says a confident Niranth. Niranth, who completed a short commission service in the Indian Army returned to Bangalore recently. Rajiv, who worked in the investment banking sector, quit his fulltime job to join him in setting up Cyclercity; both pitched in their savings to start off.
“People think we are normal courier company,” Niranth pre-empts the initial thought. “But we are not. People still don’t know how to use us. Our deliveries are for people who need something quick, maybe in an hour’s time. Bakers use us to have birthday cake orders delivered, people have sent flowers through us, gifts, bankers use us to deliver cheques, senior citizens have had us pick up medicines. Forgotten lunch boxes, car keys, sunglasses, iPods, and pen-drives are other things we have delivered,” he says. Almost 50 per cent of their requests are from people who have procrastinated returning borrowed books and DVDs! “We even have a regular client who likes his restaurant order on weekends to be picked up and delivered by us because he thinks we are faster!” One client had them drop off and pick up curtains to the tailor for repair.
The content of any package has to be declared. “We have refused business when we were once asked to pick up an exorbitant amount of cash,” says Niranth.
Cyclercity currently has 12 messengers, mostly drawn from Unnati that vocationally trains economically backward youth; they have specially also been trained in customer interaction. “Many of them were cleaners at restaurants, and come from rural Karnataka; about three are from other parts of India. Most are about 22 years old.” The idea is to create more employment opportunities and create a model that will be easily replicated in smaller owns, adds Niranth. To check the feasibility of the idea before they launched it, they cycled around the city, up to 30 kilometres a day sometimes and check what kind of weights a cycle might take.
Rajeev had seen a similar service in Germany. The concept does exist in Europe, Australia and Singapore, but it works very differently there. “In Singapore the messengers are mostly university students. In India there is a trust-deficit issue. Moreover, our priority here is safety of our messengers on the roads, so we promise to deliver in a four-hour window,” he explains. Many suggested they would be faster on motorbikes! But, says Niranth, it was their conscious decision not to use bikes, and to be a sustainable business enterprise ever since he studied at IIM-Lucknow. Moreover having seen how pizza deliveries work, Cyclercity wanted to assure their messengers that their salary would be fixed and no amount cut for late deliveries from them — something that gets pizza delivery guys zipping on the streets.
“I cycle to work often. I take bylanes, shortcuts, and there’s no need to look for parking, so yes, I’m faster. With this venture, we are sending a message to people about the possibilities — we already have cycle lanes in some parts of the city, people are talking about cycle sharing…in due course we may have more acceptability.” Their next phase is ambitious. They have been getting enquiries from people for whom cycling is a hobby, and who want to volunteer their time and cycling capability to help. “We want to see if we can reach out to NGOs…maybe have old clothes picked from a customer for free to give away to an NGO in need etc. Or where the payment made to the volunteer messenger is donated to a charity of their choice.”
Also in the pipeline are plans to have a mobile app, and include real-time tracking — something volunteers are working on.
You can place your order either online or by phone (69999880), and the nearest messenger will be sent to you. A light weight package (under 100 grams) to be delivered within a range of five kilometres will cost you about Rs. 70. Check www.cyclercity.com for details.