Millennials and younger generations tend to be reluctant to buy items. Instead, they prefer to have access to products via different sharing models. “25 years from now, car sharing will be the norm, and car ownership an anomaly,” says author and economist Jeremy Rifkin in the latest Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research.
What we experience in Atom Mobility - a platform that can be adjusted to any sharing model and type of vehicle - is that people of any age are willing to share vehicles they own. From cars to e-scooters and even forklifts. Moreover, people are willing to start their own businesses based on sharing.
This will be a practical guide for those who are seriously considering starting a sharing business. As this business niche isn’t new, a lot of people have suffered bumps during the launch process and have learned their lessons. Atom Mobility has collected them and created a practical guide highlighting what you should consider when you are considering entering the vehicle sharing business.
🛴 Choose the vehicle type and operation model
This seems like a simple decision, but it’s not. Currently, the most popular vehicles for sharing are bikes and e-bikes, scooters, e-mopeds and cars. If you already own a fleet, then the offering will be obvious. If not, you’ll have to start by calculating which vehicle type you can afford. Here is some meaningful insight into the difference between launching a vehicle sharing business with scooters, e-bikes, and mopeds. By the way, the brand is not important. The most important parameter that can later reduce maintenance costs is the quality of the IoT system fitted into the vehicle and, of course, the quality of the vehicle itself.
You will need a minimum of 50-100 vehicles to start your business. Accordingly, you can calculate the amount of the initial investment you require. Obviously, car sharing requires way more money than creating a bike fleet of 100 vehicles. However, leasing is also an option. In addition, you have to do the market research, because your success depends on demand - if there are already two or three companies in town offering e-scooters, you will have to invest a lot of money on marketing to persuade people to use your services instead those of your competitors. So you should probably consider choosing another type of vehicle to establish a point of difference and thus secure competitive advantage.
When you start to do your calculations, start with the vehicle price. From one perspective, this is the easiest part, but it is very important to calculate:
● How many rides should be taken with one vehicle during the day for it to be profitable? For example, take a look at this Shared Mobility Report from France. It might help you to get an impression of the demand and fragmentation of the market.
● What is the value of one ride? Bear in mind that the price per ride in a car is approximately three times higher than on a bike, but so are the expenditures.
● What is the structure of your costs? You have to insure every vehicle. Taxes have to be paid and vehicles have got to be inspected from time to time. Are all these positions included in your cost estimate? By the way, this is a great resource with an Excel table showing how market leaders estimate their income and expenses.
The next decision to make regards the sharing model. Currently, there are several on the market that have demonstrated proven value:
● Charging stations - there are charging stations all over the city. When the ride ends, the vehicle is left at a charging station and it is charged in readiness for the next time it is going to be used. Although this approach can create significant additional costs, it lowers everyday servicing costs.
● Free-floating vehicles - shared vehicles can be left wherever it is convenient for the customer. The city council may not be happy with it as this model sometimes clutters up the streets. So you should definitely check out whether there are any existing regulations in this regard before you launch this model.
● B2B or corporate vehicle sharing - the company owns the fleet that can be used by their employees. This is quite a secure way to run your business, but you will need to sell it to other SMEs which is not an easy task and requires significant sales resources and expertise.
● P2P sharing - anyone can register a vehicle on the platform, which can be rented by any other user. This may seem easy, but it is actually quite complicated, because the owner is putting his property on the platform which he wants to get back in the same condition as it was before. As a sharing service provider, how can you guarantee that the vehicle won’t be broken? You should run background check on users, as well as have insurance in case anything happens.
You can also read more about different operational models here.
🏢 Check the city regulations
In recent years both the demand and offering for ridesharing have grown to such an extent that cities have been forced to regulate this business sector. If you are planning to operate within city limits, you’ll definitely have to check out the relevant legislation.
Regulations may be in place that have been set by the City Council. So the first thing to find out is - is vehicle sharing allowed at all? In cities with high vehicle ridesharing service and density, the city council might organize tenders to identify which companies can provide the most appropriate ridesharing service. Other requirements for companies might also apply, so you should monitor this situation carefully.
As far as density is concerned, there’s no point in creating a new ridesharing business if the vehicle density is already more than 700 shared vehicles per 100,000 people. If the ratio is one shared vehicle per 100 - 140 people, very careful calculations should be done as it could signal that the market is overcrowded so demand might be low.
💰 Consider all costs
Every business plan starts with an Excel sheet. As always, it is not possible to predict all costs but you can sneak peek into existing companies and take a look at their cost structure. You should take the following items into account:
● Maintenance costs - every vehicle now and then will have to be repaired.
● Vehicle purchase and depreciation costs - you need to know after how many kilometres you are going to have to replace your existing vehicle with a new one.
● Charging costs – you will need a team to take care of vehicle charging. Of course, costs will differ depending on the ridesharing model, but there are going to be charging costs in some shape or form.
● Bank commissions and payment transaction costs - even if you haven’t used credit to buy vehicles, your bank will still charge you commission for its services. If you use Stripe, Adyen, or a similar payment operator, you should take into account additional costs for every transaction.
● Marketing - it is vital to go loud upon launch so that everyone notices the new company in town. This requires a sizable marketing budget. If you decide to use promo codes, free rides, and other bonuses to attract new customers, this will reduce your profit margin on a certain amount of rides.
● Customer support - customers always have questions, which they will ask via Messenger, phone or any other platform. You have to have a team in place that can provide answers right away.
● IT system support - it is crucial that the service is up and running all the time. And there are a lot of different parts involved starting from software to IoT systems and data.
● Additional costs - always leave space for unplanned costs. The industry average is approximately 3 - 5% per ride.
At this point, you are ready to start to talk to manufacturers, haggle about prices, and ask them to send you a vehicle for a test. You should not forget to discuss the prices and delivery policy of spare parts, in order to avoid unplanned downtime.
🤑 Financing options
If you already own a company and see ridesharing as an additional direction in the development of your business, then most likely you will be ready to invest in its launch. If not, and you are planning to start a new company, the first thing to consider is how can you launch a test? The idea of a vehicle sharing business alone will not be enough to attract investors or convince banks to give you a loan. You will always have to prove that this business can really take you somewhere in this particular place. And a successful test with a small number of vehicles could be good proof.
You could consider crowdfunding as an option if you want to get some seed capital. Consider choosing the most popular platforms like Spark Crowdfunding, Seedrs, Fuderbeam, or Crowdcube. They are so interested in your success that they will also put their effort into marketing your campaign on their channels. This is your opportunity to make some savings on your marketing expenditures, which will definitely benefit you later on.
🛵 Plan fleet management
So far so good. You have a plan and a budget, so what’s next? Now you have to put your fleet management system on paper:
● Maintenance and charging - at the end of each day you are going to have to check the condition of every vehicle. Does it need to be charged? Is everything working smoothly or do some details need to be changed? This everyday care usually “eats” 30 - 40% of overall costs.
● Spare parts - you should be ready to spend about 10% of the total value of the vehicle on spare parts. In addition, you should have a proper warehouse. Losing 30% of the fleet for three months due to a spare parts’ shortage is a nightmare for any business.
● People on the streets - your company will require two employees per 100 vehicles to inspect and collect them. So estimate their salaries. Remember that these people won’t have regular working hours. They might charge you overtime for work at night. And another thing to consider is how they are going to get about the city. If the vehicle is broken, how are they going to be able to take it to be serviced?
● Customer support - no matter how mature the market is - your customers will always have questions. Who’s going to answer them? Remember that customer reviews create a rating that builds the further success of the company.
As the ridesharing business is becoming more popular, you should probably consider outsourcing the vehicle service. There are new companies on the market that focus on servicing vehicle sharing platforms.
📈 Build your marketing strategy
Marketing starts with the brand. You have to decide whether you’re going to hire a marketing agency or work with the designers and marketers yourself. Either way, you will need a brand name, logo, web page, and corporate colours.
Our experience shows that the success of the launch event is a bridge to the future success of the vehicle sharing company. So it is really worth focusing your attention on the big bang at the beginning. It is crucial to get as many downloads during the first days of the operation as possible. Even if not everyone uses your service straight away, you will have a database of potential customers with whom you can work, for example, by sending push notifications - consider using Intercom or Mailchimp for this.
Oftentimes collaboration with influencers is a good channel to use. And local media are interested in vehicle sharing businesses entering the city. But never forget social media - it is the most appropriate channel for marketing, as well as quick responses to customer requests.
Now sit back, relax and enjoy your amazing results… 😆 No, the vehicle sharing business doesn’t work that way. During the first month you will have to put a lot of your effort and the effort of the whole team into adapting your initial plan to real life. The first season is usually full of experiments and failures, but the most rewarding part of this business is the opportunity to scale.
👍 ATOM Mobility is here to help you with all the challenges you will face. ATOM Mobility provides reliable and proven white label technology helping entrepreneurs to focus on marketing and operations. Now serving customers in over 15 countries worldwide. Check what our customers are saying: Story of Ride, Story of Qick, Story of GOON