13 sep 22

How India is moving ahead with MaaS

At the heart of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a radical promise: to integrate all possible forms of transport into a single, simple service. While that promise remains unfulfilled, MaaS is increasingly popular in India. Which is not really a surprise: with an urban population approaching half a billion, the country is in need of radical mobility solutions. 

As relatively poor and rapidly urbanizing country, India has some of the world’s worst levels of urban pollution and congestion. However, as the case in Africa, the widespread use of smartphones is helping the country devise solutions that are putting a serious dent in its mobility problems. 

Smartphone apps

India is a growth market for smartphone apps that offer mobility services to the Indian masses, notably of the shared and/or electric variety.  It seems like only a matter of time before these come together in a kind of MaaS application with a distinctly Indian flavour, writes UK-based global law firm Osborne Clarke in one of its Insights

The company says the country’s federal government is developing policies and provisions that will speed the integration of various mobility modes. Here are some elements: 

  • Over the past decade, metro rail projects have taken off across India. By 2025, there will be more than 1,700 km of metro rail, spread out across more than two dozen cities. 
  • About 15 years ago, India asked all 53 cities with a million-plus inhabitants to set up unified metropolitan transport authorities (UMTAs). At least 15 have complied so far. Their UMTAs have the authority to plan urban transport projects and integrate various transport modes. 
  • Indians have taken to online taxi aggregators as providers of quick and easy mobility options. The Indian government is going to provide regulatory guidelines to make these aggregators more accountable.

Local level

Meanwhile, some interesting developments are also taking place at local level.

  • The city of Pune has redesigned its city centre with the emphasis of pedestrian access, while also offering MaaS in the form of automated ticketing for parking, metro fares and rickshaw fares.
  • The city of Kochi has rationalized bus routes, and is electrifying buses and rickshaws. 

However, some questions remain unresolved – in India as they are elsewhere. These include the issue of liability: who is liable for non-delivery of service, the service operator, the regulatory authority, or the MaaS platform provider? How will data privacy and interoperatbility be dealt with? These and other questions will need to be answered if India is to become a pioneer in MaaS solutions.

Yet even in the absence of a watertight legal and regulatory ecosystem, the experimentation and the investment continues. Infra Investor Roadis, a subsidiary of one of Canada’s largest pension funds, is one of the main players investing up to $2 billion in road projects in India. India’s auto-taxi company Rapido has raised $120 million in foreign investment, while Bounce, a two-wheeler rental company, has raised $200 million. Who knows: perhaps the future of MaaS is Indian after all. 

Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Frank Jacobs