How can micromobility truly take over the world?

‘Profitability is the key to micromobility’s global expansion’ 

By Alper Oktem , founder and chief executive officer of Marti Technologies, Turkey’s largest micromobility provider 

Micromobility is sweeping the world, as e-bikes, e-scooters and e-mopeds increasingly line the streets and alleyways of virtually every major city. And this trend is growing: governments are looking to low-cost and green transportation to combat climate change and the congested and polluted megacities that dominate much of Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

But this transition to micromobility isn’t seamless, nor inexpensive. Countries are grappling with how to put in place the infrastructure to safely and expansively move to e-transportation. Many micromobility companies are struggling due to the challenges of managing massive vehicle fleets, uncertain regulatory environments, and high labour costs.

In Turkey, I lead the country’s largest micromobility company, Marti Technologies, which already has a fully funded fleet of more than 46,000 e-scooters, e-mopeds and e-bikes; and operates in 16 cities that together account for 69% of the country’s total economic output. We have multi-vehicle operations in seven cities.  Our in-house development of software solutions and assembly of e-vehicles have paved the way for overall financial success and safety.  In order to enhance our in-house capabilities, we have drawn from Turkey’s high-quality engineers and computer programmers.

Founder of Marti Technologies, Alper Oktem

We’ve also developed a close partnership with Turkey’s local and national governmental bodies to develop the most efficient roadmap to improve the transportation system in the country. To the best of our knowledge, based on the available data, Martı is the only micromobility company operating in the world with positive unit-economics, and is the fourth largest. We are profitable in terms of positive unit economics – which means we make more money during the lifetime of each vehicle than the cost of the vehicle itself.

Our growth plans are certainly ambitious. We hope to expand into ride-sharing, and potentially the renting of e-cars. As we move forward, we’ll continue to pursue a business model that allows us to expand using our internal talent and capabilities. I think there are three factors that have enhanced our financial performance since our inception in 2019.

In-House Vehicle Production: Marti’s internal ability to design and assemble vehicles sets the company apart from our global competition. Turkish government regulations require micromobility operators like ours to build 30% of their fleets from suppliers and operators inside the country, beginning in 2024.  As the market leader we have the capability to meet this requirement ahead of time as we mix global components with our locally designed vehicles.

This vertically integrated approach is already extending the life of Marti e-vehicles. Currently, our e-scooters, most of which were deployed in November of 2019, have achieved a metric of greater than 2.5-year average useful lives per unit. We expect this standard to be extended as our next-generation vehicles benefit from Marti’s innovation and experience, and advancements in the overall micromobility industry. Our e-scooter fleet consists of a mix: Vehicles assembled in Turkey; a portion that are locally manufactured; and the rest that are purchased from international suppliers who are global leaders.

 E-vehicles for the Turkish market are different from those produced in the U.S and European Union. This is due to purchasing power and labor market differences. Marti vehicles are simpler, more rugged and require more labor to maintain. Western markets, with more expensive labor costs, require higher end and higher cost scooters. We have also significantly reduced our maintenance cost through our in-house self-diagnosing software applications.

Marti is operating our second generation of e-bikes, which were first deployed in December 2021. We’re expanding our fleet utilizing our multi-modality strategy that focuses on assembling units in-house and sourcing some components from overseas.  Our e-mopeds, which are in their pilot phase, also include locally manufactured and assembled units.

Thrifty Business Culture: Marti practices and continues to grow a frugal corporate culture. As we started with only limited funding, we were required to make our unit economics work from day one. We didn’t have the luxury of taking a, “grow first, optimize later, approach.” We developed our vehicles, business operations and software systems for profitability before we scaled up.

And this culture has stuck inside Marti. Today, we benefit greatly from a team that has achieved what our global competitors haven’t: Positive unit economics, which is a standard metric among tech start-ups.

Software Expertise: Marti’s growth is buoyed by a technology platform that’s developed totally in-house and supported by global software providers. Our applications are built on a highly secure and scalable system that enables innovation and a quick recovery from mistakes. It provides an accelerated time-to-market for Marti products.

Our in-house data analytics and proprietary tools are positioned to allow Marti to better meet customer demand and improve efficiencies in the field. We also have an automated system that optimizes the battery swapping process for our e-vehicles. These tools, along with others that enable the detection of fraud and theft, are continuously updated as the number of Marti rides increase, and larger data sets are utilised.

Read more: Councils urged not to seek large financial contributions from e-scooter trials, to avoid threatening their viability

Shared vehicles and micromobility are the future. This mode of transportation will become a necessity as governments are turning to them to fight climate change and the megacities that congest much of the developing world. Therefore, the demand is there. We believe companies must be profitable to meet this demand and further develop the industry.

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