TRANSPORTATION

China’s Mobike set to roll out bicycle sharing service in Japan

The mainland’s bike-sharing pioneer looks to step up expansion in more overseas markets after its latest financing round raised US$600 million

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 3:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 June, 2017, 10:43pm

Urban bicycle-sharing service operator Mobike continues to push forward its ambitious international expansion by unveiling on Thursday a new subsidiary in Fukuoka, the fifth-largest city in Japan.

The move comes a week after the mainland Chinese start-up raised more than US$600 million in its latest financing round, which was led by existing investor Tencent Holdings.

Prior to that fundraising effort, Mobike had aggressively rolled out its service in Shanghai and across the mainland since April last year, while also establishing overseas operations earlier this year in Singapore as well as in the cities of Manchester and Salford in Britain.

“Fukuoka City, known for its innovation and dynamism, is a natural partner for Mobike,” said Chris Martin, the company’s head of international expansion. “The city government and the Fukuoka Directive Council (FDC) have given Mobike an incredible platform from which to expand our business in Japan.”

Fukuoka – located on the northern shore of Kyushu, the third-biggest island in Japan – is one of the country’s National Strategic Special Zones and implements a start-up visa programme for foreign businesses.

Its FDC forms strategic partnerships across public, private, academic and civic sectors to plan and implement effective regional development strategies throughout Kyushu.

“We look forward to the benefits Mobike will bring with the reduction of automobiles, and the positive impact Mobike’s eco-friendly bike-sharing service can provide,” said Fukuoka City mayor Soichiro Takashima in a statement on Thursday.

Mobike plans to start its service in Fukuoka later this year, while Britain will see the company’s distinctive silver-and-orange smart bikes go live next Thursday.

Government support is crucial for Mobike’s success – and in return, the company helps municipal governments run their cities better
Travis Wu, Forrester Research analyst

“Government support is crucial for Mobike’s success – and in return, the company helps municipal governments run their cities better,” Forrester Research analyst Travis Wu said in a report.

“Municipal governments all see Mobike’s services as a low-cost, clean, and effective way to help their residents move through thick traffic, reducing the pressure on motor vehicle management, parking facilities, and public transportation.”

Mobike users download its smartphone app, register their details, provide a refundable 299 yuan (US$43) deposit, and they can quickly find a bike near them to reserve and unlock it.

“Unlike competitors such as Ofo that simply bolt mechanical password locks or trackable sensors onto regular bikes with certain modifications, Mobike decided to design its bikes entirely different from the get-go,” Wu said.

Bike-sharing data could to be used to improve urban transport planning and cut congestion, leading firms tell tech conference

The company’s smart bikes are all equipped with Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation and a proprietary smart-lock technology, which Forrester’s Wu described as “the soul of the design”.

The lock consists of three modules: an embedded processor that controls all of the components and manages data transmission; a subscriber identity module that uses the 2G network of China Mobile to provide continuous connectivity for its so-called internet of things solution; and a GPS module that reports the bike’s current location.

That setup enables Mobike to know where its bikes and customers are, as well as better anticipate and address user demand.

Mobike now has more than 100 million registered users, with 5 million smart bikes in operation and 25 million rides per day at peak time.