Here is the sixteenth interview of our series #yourmobilityvision.
#yourmobilityvision is all about showing what the mobility of the future looks like by introducing companies, people behind them, researchers and institutions operating in our truly wonderful sector.
In this interview we are talking to Venkatesh Gopal, Partnership and Business Development Manager at movmi.
What is your company’s vision and how do you embrace it in your everyday doing?
As movmi, we believe in creating the next generation of transportation. And we believe shared mobility is the foundation for it. After all, transportation is all about connecting people and places efficiently and not being dependent on any particular mode. Delinking the pattern of owning assets (read cars) for all travel purposes and creating enough reliable supply of shared services for people to move around seamlessly, is the ultimate goal. And that’s going to be an ongoing one too.
I personally have moved completely away from a car-centric lifestyle (which lasted for a decade) to a car free one. It felt difficult in the beginning, but believe me, that ‘stickiness’ lasts just as long and before you realize you’d have changed your mobility pattern. I know I did. We have known since our childhood how peer pressure works. Well, let’s just say it’s hard to not get influenced when you are surrounded by evidence, case studies, exciting projects (which you help build too). Mobility pattern is a mindset, but the trick is being surrounded by a reliable supply of services ready to help you make that shift.
What is the core business of your company?
Architecture. Just as in the construction industry, movmi designs, plans and creates shared mobility services for cities. Our work spans across modes – micromobility, carsharing, on-demand shuttles (or microtransit) and integrating all these to the public transit system. Over the last 6+ years we’ve been involved in over 60 shared mobility projects worldwide, which we realized has allowed us to learn so much along the way about how things work. Cities are increasingly aiming to build a multimodal-friendly transportation system and shared mobility is the only space that makes this happen most efficiently. This is by creating public private partnerships which work. We get involved across the spectrum, from creating new services needed to evaluating existing systems to tying them all together into one solution.
What does it take to build and sustain a successful shared mobility service?
Shared mobility is super localized. Transportation is driven by social needs and not technology or anything else. We see that through our projects. And hardly two projects are similar. While every transportation authority, city, operator is vying to be sustainable, it doesn’t just mean environmentally. Reliability is one of the prime factors that drives behaviour change. And as projects become financially stable and operationally feasible, they’re more reliable.
Understanding travel and behaviour patterns is vital. Data helps. New services rely on understanding pain points from the status-quo and maybe test the hypothesis through a pilot. We find many of our projects take that route. Keeping end users in mind and building a system around them is how a service finds that latent demand. As we deal with multiple layers of new mobility viz. regulations, technology, access to data, infrastructure, equitable access and resource (asset) optimization, it is very critical for operators (esp. the new ones) to successfully navigate this lattice and launch a viable business. Building public private partnerships is the only way to proceed but that has its own challenges. In our opinion, public transit in a city must form the backbone of any multimodal system. And working with the city is the best way to prove the elevated service provided by your service, the age for rogue deployments is past.
Since COVID-19, cities have increasingly been open to considering on-demand services, linking shared micromobility to transit and this is a silver lining that we must capitalize on. Throwing in something electric isn’t going to solve the problem or get any brownie points. Higher utilization does. At the same time, cities need to recognize and support the operator’s financial model as well in some shape or form. It’s about solving the mobility problem, affordably for the three major stakeholders – City, Operator and User.
What is the collaboration between your company and Ben about?
Speaking of operational feasibility, shared mobility often relies on expertise and scale of operations. Granted that it’s not easy to achieve economies of scale for every city or operations for various reasons. We find Ben sits right at the intersection of operators and users. As movmi we work across modes and a diverse range of projects, Ben is one of our few partners out there who’s able to match that flexibility and agility. We look forward to putting this partnership to play soon in one of our projects and collaborate on more areas with the team at Ben.
What is the impact you would like to have on the mobility of the future?
The future of mobility is going to be so exciting. And the fact that we hardly can peek beyond the corner, makes it more so. If we’ve learnt a thing from this pandemic, it is that externalities can impact our lives (transportation being a big part of it) massively. And no predictions would prepare us enough. That said, I believe it is the case for C.A.S.E. (connected autonomous shared electrification) which will eventually prove itself. And there’s a place for everyone here. Automakers shift their focus to providing connected, electrified and a lot longer-lasting assets. Business models move completely to access and use, away from ownership. Cities and tech find ways to balance human-machine interaction and get us ready for AVs. We’ve started witnessing progress already, although that’s a little far out to become widely accepted. Denser cities facilitate shorter, lighter vehicles trips and shared plus electric will be at the center of it all. As cities globally work towards reducing the VKTs and greening them (through a higher ZEV adoption rate), shared fleets will become a big portion of the solution and we’re talking passenger travel and last mile logistics to begin with. There’s a lot of ground work already done and businesses being established in these areas.