Episode 75 / July 26, 2020

Inside the mind of Amit Gupta, Co-Founder, Yulu and InMobi

hr min

Episode 75 / July 26, 2020

Inside the mind of Amit Gupta, Co-Founder, Yulu and InMobi

hr min
Listen on



Amit being one of the co-founders of India’s first Unicorn Startup – InMobi, needs no introduction. After driving InMobi’s growth journey for over 10 years, he decided to start Yulu (E-bikes & Mobility solutions) in 2017.

In his 2nd entrepreneurial stint, he also convinced Rajiv Bajaj (MD, Bajaj Auto) for investing in Yulu & assembling Yulu bikes in India by Bajaj Auto.

As an Angel Investor, Amit has backed over 30+ Early-stage startups, as a gesture of giving back to the community. Some of the popular ones being – HealthifyMe, Applicate & Vahak.

In this podcast, Amit shares his experience of building two great companies, along with his core beliefs & principles as a long-time entrepreneur.


01:28 – Starting his Entrepreneurial Journey

04:04 – Co-founding InMobi in 2006, based on his intent to disrupt Mobile Advertising in India

11:50 – How did he identify the potential in mobile advertising in India, back in 2006, when mobile internet wasn’t mainstream?

16:02 – What made him start a new venture after 11 years in InMobi?

27:30 – Convincing Rajiv Bajaj for investing in Yulu & assembling Yulu bikes in India by Bajaj Auto 30:40 – Future plans & product positioning of Yulu with the current COVID situation in perspective

39:23 – How did Yulu negotiate free parking spaces for YuluZones?

42:37 – Was raising funds for Yulu easy, being a 2nd-time entrepreneur?

59:40 – Startups he’s backing as an Angel Investor

Read the full transcript here:

Siddhartha 0:29

Today I have with me Amit Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Yulu. Yulu is the leading shared micro-mobility service provider using electric two-wheelers to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in urban India. Yulu’s mission is to create sustainable cities of tomorrow by revolutionizing the way people commute. Yulu’s technology-driven mobility platform uses IoT, machine learning and artificial intelligence for demand-supply management and efficient operations. Amit, welcome to the podcast.


Amit 1:00

Thanks Siddhartha.


Siddhartha 1:02

Amit, It’s a pleasure to have you and you know, you have been co-founder of InMobi, one of India’s first unicorn. And you have a entrepreneurial journey, I believe, currently of 14 years across two companies or three companies.


Amit 1:20



Siddhartha 1:21

I would love to know about your journey right from your days out of IIT Kanpur and what gave you the entrepreneurial kick to start something?


Amit 1:34

Sure, So maybe before even college, I will just talk about my family background. So where everyone else apart from me was in family business, and maybe multiple generation I don’t know, anyone in my family stepped out and did some job for someone else. So, I was kind of an exception where my family and my mother motivated me to pursue better education or different education than most of my cousins and my other family members were doing. And that led me to get into IIT. And then be a part of a group, which is very aspirational. They have far wider perspective of life and future. And with that, at least I was in a mixed feeling that should I go work for someone or should I just go back and join my family business? That was my original promise to my father, that after my graduation, I will come back and join the family business. But somehow I convinced him that let me just taste what happens outside. Maybe it is a helpful thing for me to bring something good for back for the business. And then story got started and I got my first job in a startup in Bangalore. I am talking about 2000 when joining a startup was not a known idea. I joined a software development company, which has less than 100 people. And very soon, you know, I realized that, hey, this is good. But I basically was craving for something else. But before I talk about my professional journey, I would like to at least tell you that there was a, you can say, a DNA, there’s a wish, of me doing something on my own for very, very early on.


Siddhartha 3:36

And this DNA comes from your family background?


Amit 3:42

You can say that, because when we got started InMobi, starting a new company in that model was not a known beast. So you have to be crazy to do that.


Siddhartha 3:54

And how did Inmobi happen and you know if you can share that that journey And what led you to start another company? After your stint in InMobi?


Amit 4:05

Sure. So, InMobi technically was my second startup. And what happened that my professional journey so I work for the startup in Bangalore and then worked for Citibank for a while, didn’t like it again, joined another startup in Bangalore, which was a bay area based startup. And I gave myself a timeline that he you know, when I am turning 30 years, I should be on my own. And the date come and literally before a month, turning 30 years, I decided to jump the ship and say, I want to do something on my own. And that point of time, I had a good working knowledge of, you know, business intelligence. So I thought of the loping business intelligence platform. So I ended up starting a company called Analytics Works, which by the way, ran only for maybe six months. So I was part of that company only for six months. But in the meantime, my other batchmate Naveen Tiwari finished his MBA. And he was looking at coming back to India to do something. And that’s where we started interacting. So he landed himself in Bangalore, he started working out of my small office of the first company. And then one fine day he said, Amit, why don’t we do this together? And I thought, okay, you know, for me, doing something in business intelligence, or maybe working together with my old-time friend, Maybe I’ll have more fun. So that’s how I joined InMobi. The idea behind InMobi was, at that point of time, very revolutionary. We had this belief that in India, mobile phone will be mainstream media. And I’m talking about those days when there was no smartphone by the way, it is 2006 late timeframe.


Siddhartha 6:15

Nokia used to be very popular.


Amit 6:16

Nokia was there and you had Motorola and other fancy devices. But there was no mobile internet, per se, there was a WAP. So we thought that for India, maybe SMS will be the mainstream, because we saw that everyone is hooked on SMS. So that’s how we created a company called mKhoj. So, mKhoj was trying to do for disrupt a search on mobile phone inspired by Google. And we thought that’s the Indian narrative, that people are comfortable with SMS, they need to do search, and let’s have mKhoj as a business model. But very soon, we realized that the search on SMS using a shortcode probably is not a cool idea. So we became a kind of a Groupon what you know, where we aggregated deals and discounts of neighborhoods. And if you are looking for a deal let’s say on a shoe, so you just have to say, shoes Bandra and then set it to a shortcode. So we basically managed to get a very fancy number from telcos, if you remember IndiaTimes had 8888. So, we had 5555 which was very fancy number.


Siddhartha 7:32

JustDial also known for 10 times 8.


Amit 7:37

Correct. And that business model actually didn’t fly. And at the same time, we realized that, you know, getting people used to this new way of interacting with the word or the technology is not going to happen. And at the same time, we started learning about developments on the mobile internet on basically the WAP platform. So what will happen? We will get some deals, or some ads, you can see, we’ll run it on SMS. And we thought that why don’t we run something on mobile internet also, and see the results. And you not believe that mobile internet was giving 10x results impact from dollar to dollar basis. And we understood that probably this is where the future will be leading.


Siddhartha 8:24

And you are talking about 2006?


Amit 8:27

This is all 2007. So 2006, we started doing background and 2007 was a company came into picture. So we got funded by Mumbai Angel.


Siddhartha 8:40

You know, with half a million dollars of funding, you were able to see a 10x spike in the traffic via mobile internet?


Amit 8:51

Siddhartha, let me be categorically correct. We started seeing the next impact. So when you run an ad campaign, Right, so what type of response rate you’re getting. So we were actually allocating 90% on SMS medium and 10% on the mobile internet medium for the same customer. And the kind of response rate we were getting, it was basically Same for 10% of the amount they were getting the same amount of response rate from SMS. So, that was my point. That made us to believe that this SMS as a form factor probably is not the right form factor. We should pivot towards mobile internet. And that’s how InMobi was born.


Siddhartha 9:41

And this was an accidental realization which you allocated to 10% of your resources.


Amit 9:47

It was not accidental. You know we have been reading and we have been using and also you know, when you are into it, you are able to see things. You are able to understand that when someone is writing a check for you to take a 2x or 3x amount of campaign amount next time, is that happening or not? So clearly SMS was not generating enough and more excitement. And that time mobile internet was a very alien concept. People did not know it, you know, the marketeers were told that he figured out something on mobile, but no one had any idea. But the good part is, as a company as a team, we had a strong belief that mobile will be a format for future for all data consumption. And I think that was pretty you can say, that point of time, it was very unique perspective or very different perspective. No one believed that suddenly desktop usage will go down and billions of people will use this small device because no one was able to foresee that was probably coming up in Future in the form of smartphone, which transformed the journey dramatically for all of us. So 2008, late iPhone and Android basically they started to come into the picture. And that’s where basically mobile form factor got mainstream. And now you know, that advertisement on mobile has surpassed, TV, print radio all form factors. So it is the norm now versus an exception.


Siddhartha 11:31

So, how did you, Naveen and the rest of the team got this insight that mobile is going to be, you know, huge, if not this big? Because at that point, there was no iPhone or Android, especially in India.


Amit 10:20

So it is linked with, I don’t say that we knew the answer. But we clearly saw that in India, when something is in the hands of mass, so even back then 2006 We started seeing autorickshaw as our maidservants, they starting having access to mobile phone. And that’s where the feeling is that you know, India probably will never have this PC thing. And country of our size and scale and probably the potential. And I think India potential was well documented, and we were coming out of college and we also had this belief about the country. So if so many people, they have to do something online, then we were convinced that it will not be laptop. We had a belief that it has to be led by some five to 10,000 rupees device. And after that, it was, you know, just kind of you just trying to connect the dots and the connecting the dots is okay, you know, if mobile has to become, consumption has to become big. They will be an ad model. There will be a Google ad for example on mobile and that’s what InMobi wants to do? So that’s how the evolution in thinking happened.


Siddhartha 12:43

And can you share like two-three pivotal moments of the InMobi journey, which made it what is today?


Amit 13:11

Sure, Certainly I think , we decided to kill the SMS form factor was a very big move. And we did that when the company actually almost had no money. Half a million dollar what we raised was spent on setting up the server, you know, back then by the way, there was no AWS, you know, your company, Very Happy even to get a shortcode we had to pay crazy amount of security and what not, getting office was not easy. Everything was just taking so much of money. And then you basically are talking about, you know, and we had staff salaries and whatnot, BD expenses so. We actually ran up, we spent all of the half a million-dollar. And then when we had to pivot, it was also an urgency that, hey, we are pivoting for the right reasons. And also we have to pivot now. We don’t have more money to just beat the bush for the old form factor.


Siddhartha 14:18

And you’re also talking about 2008 financial crisis pivoting in mid of that time?


Amit 14:22

Yes, almost similar time. You’re right. Luckily,, by the way, it was a good thing for us. I’ll talk about it later. But, you know, that was a big thing. And second, you know, big moments have been literally down getting some strong backers in the form of Ram Shri Ram, and Kleiner Perkins, who saw our vision and they understood that what these guys are saying is this going to happen? And Ram was a big believer in India, using mobile devices to go to internet and do everything and It was a less than half an hour discussion Naveen had with him. And he was convinced that you know, he wants to back us. And the second big milestone from a company’s momentum came when Masa Son of SoftBank, he also saw a vision that what we are building and our story of moving from east to west, Asia will be far bigger from a mobile internet perspective than the West. So, he also by the way, got very fascinated and InMobi became the first company we founded out of India, with that kind of order of magnitude. And that basically gave company much needed momentum. Building the world-class technology platform and also expanded our geographical footprint significantly


Siddhartha 14:59

And moving forward, you know, what made you think that you know, this is right time for you to start again or take a break from InMobi?


Amit 16:05

Sure, answer is actually not very scientific, it is same crazy one that, you know, I should be entrepreneur in the age of 30 you know, I had this notion of getting retired at the age of 40. So, that was a milestone and I thought that, you know, with InMobi and when I had this notion, I thought that 10 years will take InMobi to some logical conclusion or at least some stability where probably I will not be required to be so much hands-on. And then now when I was about to turn 40 and on 38-39ish, it started thinking that hey, you know, time is coming and potential ahead of us with InMobi is much larger so there’s no point in re-doing something for the heck of it. At the same time, and by the way, in my last two to three years with InMobi, I picked up another entrepreneurial thing within the company. So I don’t know if you’ve heard of Glance.


Siddhartha 17:16



Amit 17:16

So, you know, I was responsible for revenue, and four of us sat and decided that what other aspects we can work on. So we thought that you know, we have to think about something where there’s a quality amount of user data and user time. We need to get access to that in order to compete effectively with Google and Facebook. With that, the theory was that what are the potential use cases and one was that hey, you sit with a telco where you intercept the data, but sitting with telco probably will not give you the screen time, but certainly give you access to a very high-quality data. By the way, there is another company became proof factor from that thesis. But the combination of data and the screen time probably was much better realized on the screen. And with that intent, We basically agreed that official Tron revenue, and I kind of stepped down from day to day InMobi thing to incubate this new product called Glance.


Siddhartha 18:27

And today Glance is just in terms of, you know, lock screen, which delivers news, movies, everything.


Amit 18:35

Correct, and the intent was that we should be a gatekeeper, or gateway to the mobile internet for billions of people. And that strategy, you know, was created in conjunction with OEM partnerships, because you’re talking about sitting on the top of the deck, and it is actually not possible to do that only by becoming an app, which will, by the way, nor when we started this unit, there were a lot of lock screen apps, which were incentivizing the user to be on top of it. But I was not convinced that this will be the model, which will be working and will give us the necessary scale and the goodness. So strategy was to work with OEM partners, and particularly on Android side, because iOS is a little bit tough nut to crack. So went and did a partnership with Samsung, Xiaomi, and some large OEMs. And they were also convinced that they are getting a new value proposition for the users, which is not cool. So this was a win-win situation where they were struggling, that they are not able to create any OTT as they say, over the top app. And all the goodness is going to someone else, where is our participation. So that strategy along with a beautiful product and which is also very good, basically became very popular. And we were able to sign up the top five, I think five out of four, we were able to get hold. And this basically has become a legitimate large business for InMobi now to the extent that Glance is a separate unit, which has raised its own venture capital money. So now going back to the question you asked, so the 40-year clock was ticking, and I got Glance to a level where sealed partnership with Samsung, with Xiaomi and a bunch of more Chinese OEMs. I thought that, you know, maybe I need to give another four or five years to take it to the next level. Right. You’re seeing some interesting things happening with the product. At the same time my own mental nudge took me to realize that hey, I should pick up something where I can give back to the society. So, the thought that which I had earlier that I will be retiring actually got converted into much larger good, that I should do something for the social impact and that’s how I started thinking that what problem actually is impacting me an individual basis so, didn’t want to pick up some problem for the heck of it, or a problem which is not closer to me I’m not impacted. So back then, you know the distance between my office and home, which by the way, remain the same around two to three kilometer. So going from my place to the InMobi office used to take five to six minutes, when we moved in outer ring road area that started becoming 35 minutes and Air Quality also, we have been hearing about it, you know, all the big cities are struggling. So I thought of picking them as a mission statement for myself and solve for that. And that’s how, after Glace or InMobi, Yulu happened. So, I spoke with both my co-founders in InMobi that I want to pursue this. Earlier they were not happy because Glance basically got cut to a scale where it requires a bit more effort and bandwidth, at the same time, they realized that it’s the right time for me to do that otherwise, again for five years. So that’s how I got into Yulu. And the problem statement which we have been solving is a crazy amount of traffic congestion and air quality, which by the way both are alien concept right now, during lockdowns as you know, but I believe that once things will be settling on the COVID-19 front, we will be again back to the same madness.


Siddhartha 23:12

And if you can share some stats around Yulu before COVID-19, how many rides you’re doing per month or any number which can give us an idea of the scale?


Amit 23:22

Sure. So you know, Yulu has started in 2018, January, we started bicycles. And then now we added an electric mobility product, it is a lightweight two-wheeler. And I’ll talk about it later. But from a size and scale just before COVID, we were clocking around 40,000 rides per day, across five cities, which is Bangalore, Delhi, Bombay, Pune and Ahmedabad. And the majority of the goodness started to come from our EV platform.


Siddhartha 23:57

So, I have myself ridden Yulu bikes in Bangalore many, many times like this is the most convenient way to transfer from point A to point B, in within a range of four to five kilometers. it’s enjoyable ride like you you get to experience air and freshness, especially the weather in Bangalore supports Yulu.


Amit 24:18



Siddhartha 24:20

It doesn’t make a point to take out a car when you are driving alone.


Amit 24:26

Very true, very true. That was a thesis that India or Indian cities, we saw less road space, and so many people to be moving during the work hour, car is not a solution. So we wanted to create something which is small, and eco friendly. So that led us to create this Yulu miracle.


Siddhartha 24:47

I think, Yulu miracle is the compacted, form of electrical vehicle that will take you from point A to point B. It’s not an electric scooter, right?


Amit 24:57

You are right. So, calling it scooter is actually a disservice to that product. The thesis was create something which is sturdy, safe, and as small as possible for a single rider.


Siddhartha 25:14

But currently in COVID and with the China tensions, do you find it tough, you know that getting the hardware from China and building it in India? Or how’s your strategy now like you want to manufacture now everything in India?


Amit 25:30

Sure, see from a COVID perspective, we have not much for a supply chain side reason being that the factories in China they resumed back in March. So they were very, very quick. So that is not a problem. At the same time, we actually had this notion for long that when we have been building this business for India, then we need the whole supply chain sitting here and that too in the hands of some trusted partner. So, with that intent, we reached out to Bajaj Auto Limited. Sod, we spoke with Mr. Rajiv Bajaj and share this vision with him and he got very fascinated that yes, the mobile in India will be led by electric small form factor, shared and smart and we are actually at the intersection of all of these big trends. So, for short to mid-term, we basically have been using our OEM partners in China to build it to manufacture the components. At the same time, the assembly, The key is actually part of the value chain that happens in India by Bajaj only. Our battery back is also being built in India. So, from day one a good I would say 60 65% of the value of the product is actually from India. And as we speak, we are actually able to replace some of those components with indigenous parts. So, there is some localization of what’s happening as we speak in the current form factor itself. At the same time, our mid to long term strategy is for Bajaj to make our vehicle and they have invested in the company. So, they have very deep reasons to do that.


Siddhartha 27:33

Great. How difficult was it to convince Rajiv was to come on board because you get the India’s most trusted two-wheeler manufacturer to build for you?


Amit 27:48

Correct. So, actually, it reminds me of our interaction with Ram Sriram or Masa Son of SoftBank. My first meeting with Rajiv was also very very special. He was introduced to me with a common friend. I went to Pune. And then I thought that I will be meeting some 15-20 senior leaders who would like to hear what I had to say. But that did not happen, Rajiv walked in. And then he took me, he said, You know, this room is too big, you know, let’s go to my office space. So, we went to his room, which is very bright. You can see a lot of trees and lush. And then we sat for almost three hours. And he was in a listening mode, not even a single time the phone rang or someone knocked, except for some nice Poha and some very nice Chai. And he actually gave me uninterrupted attention to what I am talking about and I must say that Rajiv, the way he looks at the business, he also must have some thesis around mobility. And he being a person or a company for them two-wheeler is a religion. They’ve never done four-wheeler for a reason, right? So when I spoke that mobility in India is all two wheels and shared smart, connected electric. And I think it probably resonated somewhere. And I don’t know at what moment he got convinced. But you know, after 15 minutes of me starting and narrating the big picture, he was glued in and he listened to every element of why he bought and how. And then the next step was for him to do the presentation to the board. And then the board basically was convinced. It was a tough meeting though, for me. But they got convinced. And then they said, Okay, let’s work together. And you’re right, Rajeev is known to pick very fewer bets. And that means that there’s a huge amount of conviction and excitement, both from him and his group side about Yulu.


Siddhartha 30:23

That’s a fantastic story to be told to the next generations.


Amit 30:29

Very proud of that association.


Siddhartha 30:33

Amit, so what’s next for you know, in the next six months, you know, considering both if the COVID impacts stays or withers away?


Amit 30:42

Sure. So I’m taking a big picture, what’s happening and what COVID has done to us. So first of all, if you look at the narrative of India, I think probably you’d also have the same positivity around the Country, right? And that country will basically come back on its own heels and will walk and will run. And we’ll fly


Siddhartha 31:09

We have been a resilient nation for a very long time.


Amit 31:12

Right. So, COVID is a kind of temporary phenomena, although it will stay with us for long and we will learn to live with that’s a secondary point. But the fact remains same as a country. We basically are the nation of this century. So it will be India’s time this century for sure. Now, it’s also reflected by what we are seeing with Jio, you know, billions of dollars have poured in with the same belief that India has a huge and bright future. Now, with that narrative, if people, the economy is growing, then mobility is a critical component in any country’s growth. And if mobility a narrative is same, which is Electric shared, smart, and also small in our context, because we have only limited road space. And now sustainability is also kind of a important critical element. So, Yulu ticks all of the boxes, there’s not even a single box, which we don’t tick. And it’s not by chance that we are the largest EV player in the country right now. So we have 10,000 EVs on the road, which is running right now, which is a big deal. We think that if you look at the other worlds, so even within the COVID era, which is right now where we are, so what happened in May, when we announced a lockdown, one in Bangalore, we resumed our operations. While a number of people on the ground, who were basically on the road even back then was close to or less than 10%. Our actual business resumed to around 55 to 60% very, very quickly. So we actually saw a V-shaped recovery. And we were also fascinated that when not many people are they’re still working from home. And if you remember Siddhartha, our service is not available across the city. We have created those Yulu zones at a specified area wherever you want to tap the demand and they are at Metro Station, they are at Tech parks, big buildings. So we know that a tech path attendance is 5%. But even then the business usage has gone to 50 55%. Something is crazy different. We have to understand what and then we looked at the pattern of you know the way people were using our product. The average distance and average time of usage per trip actually have gone up by 50%. We started calling some people that hey, we didn’t see you the number of by the way new users, which we used to see per month that also became double. So, we realized that something is different for sure. We also did a survey from Yulu users as well as just floated it for general people, it was very evident that people will be skipping public transportation, they will be skipping every group mobility and also a driver led mobility in a large manner. And what happened that all of that usage and users, they basically came to our platform where they were the only rider on the vehicle. So because of solo riding, you are not exposed to a co-passenger or a driver. The number of touchpoint in our vehicle is only three versus 35 in the case of a car and infinite in the case of a bus. So, we actually saw that after your own personal vehicle, the safest way to move in the city is Yulu. And that actually made us kind of gain a significant amount of market share from other mobility plats. And this, by the way, was not only unique to India or to Europe, we saw a similar trend during lockdowns in other cities of the world. Everyone basically shared the same story be it Hellobike or DiDi bike in China, or what happened in CitiBike in the US, New York City. They all were basically saying that, hey, if you are alone on the bicycle, then probably you are the safest from the Corona crisis. So now what I believe is that this COVID thing, while it has created a lot of problems, but it has actually kind of fast-tracked the appreciation and adoption for service like Yulu. So something which Demonetization did for digital payments, I think COVID actually has done something for Yulu.


Siddhartha 36:21

Now you’re preparing for when the market opens up, to have a bigger number of bikes on the road very?


Amit 36:28

Very true, very true bang on. So this is precisely what’s happening with us. And as a team, we have been very, very excited because now the theory of that Oh, if you are the only person the vehicle and you will be safe and sound and we saw that from the last two months. That’s what people are doing. And when you are talking to them, they’re like yeah, I just had to wash my hand. I know I’m safe. I’m not in the vicinity of everyone who might be impacted. So we are basically sanitizing our vehicles multiple times per day, we are showing the time stamp at what time it was sanitized last. And if it has not been sanitized for more than 24 hours you cannot open that vehicle. So we basically took the safety narrative to the next level and we walk the talk. Online you will hear that oh I am sanitizing my car my taxi every night and I’ll wear a mask that does not happen. You see that does not happen. But in our case, your safety is almost guaranteed as long as you are wearing your mask and you know wash your hands, sanitize your hand after the ride. You are safe, absolutely safe. And one more thing I would want to add here. Now cities are also realizing the power of using e-bikes and bike form factors like Yulu. They basically are looking at creating dedicated infrastructure. So there are 100 cities as we speak, who have created the dedicated infrastructure for products like ours. And we believe that the same thing will happen in India also. Because suddenly everyone will realize that, you know, they cannot carry so many people in Metro or buses, because of social distancing. But at the same time, people can be safe and sound if they are on the road on these kinds of vehicles, which is nonmotorized and eco friendly. So, we actually see, users mind changing, we see the policymakers, which are very, very favorable about services like Yulu. And last but not least a larger ecosystem on electric mobility, where there’s so much development around the pricing, the comfort, as well as the overall affordability perspective. Everything is basically making our cases stronger. So we are very, very excited about what will actually happen the moment more and more people start to come back on the road, and we will see a different level of the momentum of growth for Yulu.


Siddhartha 39:15

Fantastic. I’m personally looking forward to it. I personally had a question regarding Yulu, do you pay for the parking space in public and private spaces?


Amit 39:26

Very good question, Siddhartha. So our model actually has been very inclusive. We realize the fact that by the way any mobility business if you try to do in a private manner, it will never work. So our strategy or our approach has been very inclusive. So what happened when we started we went to the corporates. We said that hey, you know your people who are spending an hour or two in finding affordable and reliable solutions to go to even the metro station or to go to the nearby home. Why don’t you give this visitor car parking area and let us make a Yulu zone here? They were more than happy to give it to us. And then the same thing happened the people who are working in those offices, they were living in those apartments, they started calling that hey, can you this is very good. You know, can I have a Yulu zone in my apartment? Okay, why not? I’ll give you this space, you take it. And because and when this whole action got started, the city also realizes that you know, you lose doing something interesting. So they ask, Hey, how can we help you? We said, Oh, you know, you help us with some policies. You help us by giving us spaces next to the metro station, bus station and these common areas. So they were more than happy to do that. And all of this actually happened because everyone thought that they have a responsibility towards making our cities better. So answer to your question is Yulu actually getting almost all of these YUlu zones or spaces without paying any money.


Siddhartha 41:17

And that is incredible.


Amit 41:21

It is incredible. And it is not just in India but globally, there’s no company has been able to pull off this PPP model which is the private-public partnership at that scale, and this is not just a one-trick pony, which is working in one city. This is working across all of the cities. Now the model has changed though the cities are calling us. They are saying that hey, Yulu, why don’t you come to my city? Tell me what do you need. So, we now get actually red-carpet welcome from the cities and we pick and choose whether we will come to your city at this stage or not. And it is also very, very fascinating. Wherever we have gone, we basically were lucky to get flagged off by the Chief Minister of that state. So, be it Karnataka or Maharashtra or Gujarat. So, this is and this does not happen by chance, because of the goodness we are bringing to the country into the cities. And with a very, very honest approach, you have been able to get all of these resources and favors back from the stakeholders.


Siddhartha 42:32

You have raised a certain investment, how difficult or how easy was it for you to raise your first few rounds in Yulu because you have been a very successful entrepreneur the first time?


Amit 42:46

So, I think the answer to that question is mixed. So, I would say that raising funding for a second-time entrepreneur is relatively easier, as you probably know, and especially the journey I went through with InMobi was helped a lot sir raising seed round was not difficult at all, you know, I actually have a very long list of investors in our cap table because a lot of friends who always used to complain that we never got to invest in InMobi now, you have to let me invest in Yulu. So, that led to a very long list although and from the seed capital investment perspective also Sanjay has been a great friend from Blume. He invested in InMobi also when I told him that he said, You know, I mean, and then a bunch of other folks also came in but at the same time, you know, because of this business model, and people think that you know, what you’re doing is probably looks very difficult. The Traditional VCs who will say oh, you have a bicycle, or you have an asset. So, there were some challenges for sure. They were just not convinced. Some of the VCs were not convinced that, you know, this business model will ever happen in India, where is the parking, where’s the habit? Where is the electric product? And I’m sure that some of the conversations when we’ll have maybe four or five years down the line, they will realize that what the problems were we actually converted them into opportunity, or we solve them all, all of them. So there are Yulu zones. There are, like 3000 Yulu zones now. There is electric mobility ecosystem. We have partnerships with OEMs with the part, with battery companies. We’ve got a policy framework in place. So we have been actually building it with a long term view, my discussion on the investment with Rajiv Bajaj was also, I would say similar where because he just got excited. So I would say that you know, it was not that difficult for him to write a check. Although the process took a little bit long time they have to go to the board and it’s a lot of due diligence, but the conviction part and he saying yes took actually very very little time. So the people gave us money, they basically gave us money on a flick of a button. And then there’s a segment of investors who probably were not at convinced and I think the same thing happened with InMobi also, where what we were doing back then people were not in they did not see that there will be smartphones, or billions of people will be using mobile devices. But Ram saw that in a matter of half an hour. He was convinced, the same thing happened with Masa Son. So, now, what we believe is as so we have raised by the way 20 million dollars in venture capital money. We think that as we are going forward, now we have a much larger story to tell. We have a lot of proof points. In terms of technology, we have built the customer validation, the product-market fit, as you know, we have a very strong positive unit economics with the help of EV product. And now with this COVID, where if you just try to connect the dots, our potential has become much larger. So we’ll basically we wouldn’t want to stabilize the business and see some demand coming back. And I’m sure that they will be enough and more takers and backers, I would say for you In fact, as we speak, there are at least five very active conversations, very large names, who would like to back Yulu whenever we are ready to take money. So now we feel much more confident about even getting support from people who can now be part of a much larger journey that basically the growth stage of the company.


Siddhartha 47:26

Fantastic. You know, I believe that Yulu’s story is going to be bigger than InMobi and InMobi is one of the most successful stories from India. And what I believe you know, the challenges where you converted them into opportunity, as you rightly said, because there was no infrastructure in place. There was no parking. There was no EV ecosystem in place in India, which you could leverage and these things, you’ve built from the ground up, and once the infrastructure is also created, it gives the opportunity to many other entrepreneurs to be part of the value chain.


Amit 48:05

Very true, very true.


Siddhartha 48:08

So, across your two ventures there, there is a common theme, you know, you build for large markets, if you can share with the entrepreneurs listening, what are the first principles that you have learned of being an entrepreneur during both of your journeys? And what are the universal truths?


Amit 48:29

I don’t know what the universal truth part, but for sure what I have seen and what I believe in. So first thing, entrepreneurship is not a cool subject. Let’s not do it, because it sounds cool. When we started InMobi, it was certainly not cool. When someone would know that you are running your own startup they will see as someone who has just lost everything in life, but things have changed. Now becoming an entrepreneur is cool. My own realization is that one should not pursue this journey unless there’s a huge conviction. So, remove the glamour part, but if you think that you have a deep association with a problem, or pain and maybe some time and opportunity and just please read the pain problem equal to opportunity, right. So there has to be a story which you can relate to. And then you have, you know, this perseverance or at least you think that you can give your next five to 10 years and I actually mean it. If someone comes to start up a company just to sell make money, It’s a bad idea. It’s a very bad idea, you may basically sometime be lucky, make something good for the world and for yourself. But those cases are very, very less, great companies have been built with this whole mindset that this is a big mission and I am so pained with this problem. This is my own personal story. And then if you jump in with enough amount of conviction and patience, and then give your honest input, and as long as you are basically doing it honestly and with hard work, I believe that something good will happen. So, look at some of the big companies in India successful companies in India, Book my show, PayTM you look at InMobi for that matter, Flipkart. They all basically have one common theme, that they basically started something when there was nothing. And then they stuck with the theory and they kept on working on that. And then they are all large companies. So this narrative actually does not change ever. Especially in India, where this copy-paste thing and just do a thing for a couple of years and move on that mindset probably is not the right mindset. As long as there’s a genuine problem, if you work with heart, work, and conviction, now, something good will happen for sure. And that was actually one common thing within InMobi. And even with Glace, which did not start with all the clarity, but with some small changes and tweaking, we were able to make it really, really big. Trust me if the intention was that show me something in one year or six months. If it is flying, it is on otherwise I’ll kill it, then that would not have happened. Glace would not have like the success story as it is right now. So you have to give some patience and then some capital, some time, which is also important. I have this theory that the first five years you are just building tranches, you actually build a building after those wins, you have prepared the base work and the world gets to see the building only after the first five or 10 years of your hard work of and that is true when something is not there. Right. But you know that so many other business models or startups where you can just copy-paste something, move fast, and then sell and move on. Right. So that is also, by the way, a good theory. And I’m sure that there will be people who will master that in India. It is very common in the Bay Area, you know that. We have folks who are serial entrepreneurs they have done like 5, 6, 10 startups. So they’re very, very good Siddhartha but in India, I don’t see that. Because our country is now in the built-up mode. We have so many unique problems, which someone can pick up and we have plenty. So as long as someone just can associate themselves as I said, pick it up, work on that. And as you rightly said, five years, you just need to build the foundation. For that matter, you will figure out that what all foundation have to put, and then something good will happen.


Siddhartha 53:32

And India is a very tough nation to build. Do you agree with that?


Amit 53:36

No doubt about that. Yeah, True. True. That’s why you know, like, we did not have a battery. Forget EV. There, you know, we have to deal with the tough monsoons of Mumbai or tough summers of Delhi, there was no suitable battery. There was no charging station. There was no charging network, there was no vehicle nothing. We build it out.


Siddhartha 54:13

I always wondered seeing the small Yulu Miracle, where does the battery fit in?


Amit 54:19

Yeah, so, because of the small form factor, I was telling you that what happens in our business, the two big costs actually are relocating, you know you move the vehicle for the purpose of demand and supply mismatch. So, if the vehicle is small it is cheaper for you to move. And the second one is the battery charging basically, and which is directly proportional to the weight it is carrying. So if the vehicle is small ones, again, you require a small battery. And with small batteries, it is easy for you to do swapping, and to move them around to charge them. So everything is linked. And our insight was that 90% of time people are alone when they are going out for work. So why do we put two seats and increase the vehicle weight by 2x? It means a bigger motor bigger battery, everything’s just unfortunate you know just doing being done for the 10% use case so let it go, we’ll figure out that at present use cases sometime later.


Siddhartha 55:22

but how do you trust Indian consumers with that asset Like not many are willing because though very positive, you know, I have been an entrepreneur but you’re trusting Indian consumer with an asset. How did you how do you do that?


Amit 55:38

So first of all, I think we unnecessarily ding our country for no reason. We have far more cases of theft. And misuses in rest of the word. I don’t know if you have noticed when you have gone to San Francisco, have you seen that they use this chain to lock their door bicycle. Have you seen how heavy is that chain? Have you ever seen that type of chain in India?


Siddhartha 56:07



Amit 56:08

Have you ever left a laptop in the car in the city in the US, have found it still there. And have left your bag in India and you didn’t find it. So, we just ding our country and by the way nothing against any country but you know what, this is common and you will be actually very surprised that our theft rate is actually .5%. The global average of the micro-mobility theft rate is around 3 to 4%. Our theft rate is .5% while there is a goodness of Yulu where we have figured out the way, we have figured out the parking in the charging and the electric mobility. The theft part has also Yulu figured it out with some interesting innovation and partnership with local people and the police department, but I started off by saying that India is no different in theft context, so it doesn’t matter. So it’s a part of the game. If you are the business of credit card and you think that they will be no frauds, you’re in the wrong business, the same thing will happen with us. So we had to be on our toes, set up the right checks and balances. And one of the, by the way, easy to understand answers for your perspective is Yulu vehicle, you cannot leave it anywhere. You have to bring it back to a Yuluzone where we have created those Yuluzones. It is in front of the apartment complex, where is a security guard, there is a metro station with a security guard. There’s a commercial building there a security guard. So because of India, you know we have security guards everywhere, and they’re not paid by ours and hence our assets are being looked after by someone. And then our ability to, you know, have our own secondary system. We have bike marshals, for example, who are trained to deal with situations. We actually have done one thing very, very well, which is consequence management. So we basically are a nice company nice people, but if you mess around by 90% time, we will know that this person has done something wrong. So our team of bike marshals, which are like good bodybuilders bouncers, they go take care of that guy and sends a strong signal to that locality that don’t do that. And in certain cases where they’re difficult cases for us, we take help from the police. So we have a relationship with the city, and under that policy framework, the police department is expected to help us so while we don’t bother them for everything, but in tough cases, we do get their help. And then they will take some of those people, give them hospitality in their nice stations. And again, that locality gets a message. It’s not worth it.


Siddhartha 59:11

Fantastic. You have solved the problem. And you should get the award for how innovatively you are using a public infrastructure to get benefited.


Amit 59:25

Yeah, I think we have got some, some big awards for innovation. And they realized that what we have done is actually is worthy of giving us awards.


Siddhartha 59:35

Well, so Amit, you’re also an angel investor. So tell me about you know, your journey as an angel investor? In which entrepreneur are you backing or looking to back?


Amit 59:48

Sure. So the reason I basically started supporting entrepreneurs, it was more about giving it back to the ecosystem. So, when we started InMobi, our first check came from Indian investors and but back then, by the way, they were very only a few Indian investors in the country, but when we basically have at least I had some money, I thought of doing the same, so that more and more people can pick up entrepreneurship. So, that was my reason. I have made investments in health care education, actually, there is no specific sector per se, but the thesis is that I look at the entrepreneur if that person is known to me, and he or she is solving some problem, which I can relate with. So, that has been the common theme. I have basically participated in similar companies. So for example, HealthifyMe is one of my favorite investment. They’re doing something on the health side. There’s an emotional wellness company called Wysa touchkin. And then in education also, there are a few companies. There are certain folks who are x InMobi. Very recently, there’s a commitment I’ve made to a startup that is doing something around education for sustainability. So, he is training people to be how they, they basic their business models, basically, around sustainability. So he is now have created a school or education platform for that. So these are the set of things that made close to 30 plus investments in startups.


Siddhartha 1:01:48

Thank you so much, Amit, for sharing your experience, insights and wisdom on the podcast. It was a real pleasure having you.


Amit 1:01:55

Same here Siddhartha. Enjoyed the interaction and wish you all the best. Thank you very much


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