1. News
January 16, 2018

Singaporean cycle hire startup launches Amazon Prime Now rival

Singapore-based cycle hire company oBike has introduced oBike Flash, a delivery service using its bicycles, to challenge the speed and quality of Amazon’s Prime Now service.

By JP Casey

Singapore-based cycle hire company oBike has introduced oBike Flash, a delivery service using its bicycles, to challenge the speed and quality of Amazon’s Prime Now service.

Founded in January 2017, oBike operates through an app to locate, pay for and unlock dockless bicycles. Customers can then ride for as long as they wish, and are charged per 15 or 30 minutes of use. The model has allowed the company to deploy rapidly across the world, establishing a presence in Europe and Australia within six months of its launch.

oBike Flash is the company’s attempt to compete with delivery giant Amazon, and to distance itself from other popular bicycle-sharing companies in Asia.

The service is currently only available in Singapore, and allows users to place a delivery at a cost of $10 for deliveries within 5km, with additional charges of 30c per kilometre up to 10km, and 50c per kilometre up to 20km. Deliveries placed between 11pm and 7am cost one-and-a-half times the standard rate.

“It delivers anything that ranges from documents to small packages to food that could be feasibly transported on a bike or motorcycle,” claimed Singapore general manager Tim Phang. “This business model allows time-starved people a more convenient way to send out their items.”

Delivery staff, of which there are around 2,000 applicants, are not required to use company bicycles, introducing a unique element of flexibility to the oBike system.

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With the region’s online ride-sharing market expected to reach $13bn – and include 29 million monthly riders – by 2025, ride-sharing companies across the Pacific are diversifying their businesses; Chinese cycle hire firms Mobike and ofo have launched their own ride-hailing services, and oBike plans to launch oCoins, a cryptocurrency that can be used to hire their bicycles.

The latter development addresses what Verdict called the “lack of proper banking system available to a large part of the population” in the countries where these companies are most popular.

oBike’s incorporation of different business elements, and the establishment of a framework where customers can pay using an internal currency, may be necessary for its continued growth.

Walter Theseira, an economist from the Singapore University of Social Sciences, told The Straights Times that companies are “realising the core business model of providing bikes is not what is going to provide the company with a long-term, sustainable and profitable source of revenue.”

Since oBike’s founding, the company has expanded rapidly, with oBikes being deployed in Australia in June 2017, and in Europe, through the Netherlands, in the following month. The app has also been downloaded over one million times across all regions, and company founder Edward Chen reported “over two million users across Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand” in October 2017.