During the pandemic, Kyiv - the capital city of Ukraine - has changed. The local government decided to increasingly focus on the green course by creating a huge amount of bicycle lanes. Even big streets were transformed into two-lane streets and cycling lanes were added. It is a real micro-mobility service paradise, isn't it? Service providers – both global brands and small local companies - responded quickly and took the opportunity to run their businesses there. One of them is Zelectra - a company created by locals, which has just finished a very successful first season.
Launch date: Spring 2021
Fleet: 300 scooters and 350 mopeds
Web page: https://zelectra.com.ua/en/
Team: 25+ team members
Cool fact: 2,500 rides were taken on 250 scooters in 1 day
App Store: https://apps.apple.com/ua/app/zelectra/id1545583319?l=ru
Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=ride.app
Sergey and Eugine - co-founders of Zelectra - have been friends since childhood. The idea of a micro-mobility business came about when one of their friends told them he had contacts with the manufacturer in China that could provide vehicles if they are interested in starting a business in Kyiv. “We have never worked with scooters before, but thought that we could try to offer a last-mile service. That's how it all started. However, in the beginning, we laughed about the idea and went in separate directions. But somehow this idea didn't let us go. Then we decided to do the calculations. That was the moment when we became really interested in developing a solution,” explains Eugine. This all happened at the beginning of 2019. At the end of the year, both friends understood that they would launch a micro-mobility business in 2020.
Learning together with the local government
The decision was made to launch in Kyiv - the city familiar to both of them. They hoped to be the first, but unfortunately, the pandemic slightly changed their plans. Global micro-mobility service provider Bolt launched in 2020, while four other companies followed in 2021. One was Zelectra. “The reason we started later was due to technical challenges, as well as some challenges while ordering vehicles. Of course, we had heard that there might be hurdles, but we didn't realize what they really meant,” Eugine recalls. For example, banks were looking at their potential business and thought that they were crazy. They didn't want to take the newly-formed team seriously.
“It was the same story with the government. When they got familiar with Bolt, they had a very poor understanding of what a micro-mobility service is. The scooter as a vehicle was not subject to any regulation. It does not count as transport, and what is an actual micromobility solution? Does the rider need a license? Where is it possible to drive? Are helmets mandatory? Where can vehicles be left? It was a similar story with the electric mopeds with 3kw power that we also offered - they did not correspond to any norms. When we put those vehicles on the street for the first time, we were told that we were breaking the law. Our vehicles didn't have number plates. People were driving all over the place and leaving vehicles on sidewalks. We explained to the government that none of the means of transportation were defined by regulations and finally they accepted this. So now we are growing together,” says Eugine. “On the one hand, we have some additional duties imposed by the government. On the other, the government is helping us a lot. The development of a huge number of cycling lanes changed the attitude of locals not only towards riding bicycles, but also scooters. It was no longer considered to be something weird.”
Hired 26 people on the spot
Zelectra was the smallest company in the market with the fewest vehicles - 300 scooters and 350 mopeds. The company bought scooters from the manufacturer in China, whereas the mopeds were manufactured locally. They didn't build a software platform from scratch. They used the ATOM Mobility solution. Eugene explains that it was important for them to find a reliable partner and not to struggle with development as they were not sure that they could easily find a common language with developers.
“All that we heard and all that we have been told before - it doesn't work that way here in Kyiv. We talked a great deal with different European companies. And what we said is that we, in contrast to them, have to be available 24/7. Our vehicles are often stolen. They have been thrown into the River Dnepra. That's why the first month was tough - we gradually realized that it was one situation how we had imagined things would be, but the reality was completely different. We suddenly had to collect a team of 26 people. We had to buy cars and brand them for the team to be able to serve all vehicles. We paid all our taxes and during the season we succeeded in building a really good team where everyone felt needed,” says Sergey.
“Looking back at our first season, I would say that we are happy that we didn't embarrass ourselves,” adds Eugine. “Our app has 10,000 downloads. We succeeded in creating the rhythm of changing batteries and making vehicles available on streets that are fully operational. By the way, battery life is not as long as the manufacturers had said it would. Batteries had to be changed twice as often. However, during the best day of the season, 2,500 rides were taken on 250 scooters. And this is what we are really proud of, because it is not easy to always find our scooters, but people were apparently looking for them.”
Here to stay for the greener future
Zelectra doesn't reveal the exact number of vehicles they are preparing for the next season, but the amount is going to be significantly higher. In addition, they are planning to launch their service in three to four new cities in Ukraine. “We are here to stay. We do really care about our service, because we want Kyiv to become a green city. We hope that the fact that we are here has also helped the local government to rethink infrastructure, as well as its attitude towards the environment. If we get the chance, we would like to have an all-electric business of scooters, bikes, mopeds, electric cars. We will try to expand and use everything electric to help Kiev become a greener city,” says Eugene, revealing the company’s mission.