Ofo Wants to Connect Bikes, Not Make Them

3 min read

A lot of people are curious about how Ofo and Mobike, China’s dominant bike-sharing platforms, are different. From a user perspective, they may not be so different, but from our previous post, we can see that Mobike is about creating a moving IoT platform. Ofo, on the other hand, emphasises user connection and the sharing economy.

To learn more, we spoke with Li Zekun, Head of Ofo Public Relations.

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A rider in Beijing (Image credit: Ofo)

How many university campuses have OFO implemented its business so far?

Over 200 campuses so far across Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Xian, and Hangzhou.

How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?

I would say that Ofo took a ‘sharing economy’ model. While Mobike manufactures the bikes in its own factories, Ofo wishes to share the bikes. That is, users can share their own bikes by registering their bikes to Ofo platform.

What happens when people register their own bikes?

They give up the bicycle and instead, get the access to all the Ofo bikes, wherever and whenever they want for free for one to three years. Their bikes will be re-painted yellow and we will put an Ofo lock and number plate on them.

Our model promotes the right to use a bike more conveniently by giving up the right to own.

It was announced recently that Ofo will partner with 700Bike. How will this partnership benefit Ofo?

Partnership with 700 Bikes marks the beginning of another way of sharing. Ofo will become an open platform to the businesses, bicycle brands, and manufacturers. In this ecosystem, bike-sharing platforms do not compete with traditional bike manufacturers. Rather, two players are mutually beneficial to each other. These manufacturers can continue their business by producing bikes with Ofo brands.

Through cooperating with the bike suppliers, Ofo ensures the stable and efficient supply of bikes so that it does not slow down the growing demand. At the same time, Ofo brings in the individuals’ bikes into Ofo’s platforms to expand the value of existing resources.

Why did you choose this business model?

The main reason Ofo never tried to manufacture bikes is because our society does not need more bikes. In Bejing alone, there are more than 20 million bikes.

Rather than increasing the absolute number of bikes and making the existing ones become obsolete, Ofo wants to bring the bikes to our platform and add value from existing resources, preventing waste and bike-jams.

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A rider in Shanghai (Image credit: Ofo)

One major difference from Mobike is that Ofo’s bikes are not equipped with a smart
lock. Do you plan to implement one in the future?

There are a number of advantages of using our traditional number lock, so we currently do not plan to change our lock system.

It is more robust, stable, and reliable. In very low temperature and harsh weather conditions, smart locks can break. As users have to unlock the bike before riding it, lock break-downs can deter a good user experience.

We accumulate data through the app itself, not through the smart lock on the bikes. It is just like the running apps. All the movement data is tracked through the mobile interface.

Is Big data important for Ofo? How do you make use of it?

Big data is crucial for enhancing our service.

The data of how many people use Ofo’s bikes, in what kinds of places directly represents the size of demand. So, it is used to decide distribution plans such as where to put how many bikes.

Furthermore, this data will also be used for urban traffic planning. That is, we want to identify which roads have more bike riders to help the government implement bike lanes. Only when this kind of infrastructure in city scale is improved to fit the demand can Ofo really solve the last mile problem.

Image credit: Ofo