Turkey: An emerging market bursting with opportunity for shared mobility
18 May, 2022
New article written in collaboration with fluctuo. This week we are exploring the unique Turkish shared mobility market.
Constantinople embodied the dreams of the ancient Ottoman civilisation, and was the gateway to Europe. Today, however, Istanbul – and Turkey in general – remains a distant and largely unexplored destination for most stakeholders in the shared mobility industry. In recent years, however, a few international operators have set foot in the country, drawing attention to this promising market.
With a population of 84 million and a growing middle class, the urban mobility needs of major Turkish cities are fast-evolving: one study estimates the national shared mobility market will be worth $6 to $20 billion by 2030. Unsurprisingly, Istanbul leads the development of alternative modes of transportation, and accounts for 20% of the country’s trips. But the trend is spreading to many other cities, whether they be business metropolises or tourist havens.
Turkey, being some distance away from Western Europe’s shared mobility market, has allowed local authorities, operators and suppliers to follow their own strategy for the development of shared mobility services, resulting in a dynamic ecosystem.
Let’s explore the origin and progression of this emerging market.
Slow beginnings: bike-sharing and car rental
Like in many other countries, the origin of shared mobility in Turkey lies in public bike-share. Having just graduated, Yavuz Salih Şahin visited London to explore urban planning solutions in European cities. After seeing the impact of ‘Boris Bikes’ first-hand, he returned home with the desire to make shared bikes a common sight across Turkey.
Şahin founded Yapıdrom Ltd in 2011: “At the time, there were no micromobility companies in Turkey. We are proud of being the first!”. Since then, Baksi (Yapıdrom’s bike-share subsidiary) have developed tremendously and is now operating more than 10,000 bikes in around 30 services. These include Istanbul’s IsBike (launched in 2013, now 3,000 bikes), or Izmir’s Bisim (launched in 2014, now 900 bikes).
The next milestone was reached in 2018 by Çelik Motors, the oldest automotive company in the country. Having already entered the space with a classic car rental service through subsidiary Garenta, it then launched Turkey’s first car-sharing service, Moov. 600 cars first appeared in Istanbul, in September 2018, and have since reached Ankara and Izmir. Since early 2022, they compete with TikTak City’s fleet of 400 Renault Zoe in Istanbul.
In the same year, on the other side of the world, scooters landed in California. Local entrepreneurs saw the potential and wasted no time in replicating Bird’s service in Santa Monica. Martı, founded by Oğuz Alper Öktem, launched the nation’s first scooter-sharing service in Istanbul, in March 2019, which triggered the development of a dynamic shared micromobility ecosystem trying to change Turkey’s unwritten rule of the road… who drives wins!
From nowhere to everywhere: The rise of scooters
Martı’s competition soon grew: hop launched in Universities’ campuses around Ankara in December 2019, while BinBin became available in Istanbul’s airport and universities. Despite this, Martı remains one of the most successful operators in the country, serving more than 15 cities with a fleet of 50,000 vehicles. The company went multimodal, offering e-bikes and mopeds in some cities, taking full advantage of its Series B, which has pushed them to a €100m valuation.
But hop, the second company to have launched in the country, is also expanding fast. From a couple of hundred scooters available at the University of Ankara in December 2019, the company now operates around 15,000 scooters in 18 cities. “The company made its success focusing on sustainability. We’ve been very cautious in our development to scale up with optimised scooter models (we are the only company using Okai scooters) and an in-house software solution built on our experience developing a ride-hailing platform”, explains hop’s CEO, Yiğit Kipman.
BinBin is another leading operator. With the Istanbul Airport service, the first indoor airport operation in the world, the company created a new application for shared micromobility. It helped BinBin to scale to 15 Turkish cities, with further plans of expansion to come this year: “BinBin scooters will soon land in their first foreign city, and should be available in 14 more by the end of 2022!”, confirms the CEO Kadir Abdik.
The list of local scooter operators goes on… In Istanbul, there are 10 active ones. With the noticeable exception of Superpedestrian, all of them are Turkish. AT, Palm (acquired by Fenix), Tazy (Yapıdrom’s scooter branch), Volly, Scooby and Hey are trying to win market share and challenge the 3 leaders.
Interestingly, it means that Turkey remains a remote territory for most international operators. As of today, Superpedestrian, with its Link scooters, are the only ‘Western’ scooter operator in the country. The American outfit can be found in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir, thanks to an early strategic investment in the country.
Entering the market
The regulations on shared scooters, which have been in place since 2021, make it difficult for new operators to enter the market. Companies first have to apply for an Authorization Certificate from the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure, which assesses the applicant’s business structure and operational model. Once approved, these permits are valid for 5 years. Authorised operators then have to apply for licences with the local transport authorities (UKOME), who decide how many scooters and operators it wants to allow. Licences are awarded for 2 years, with an automatic 1-year extension if the operators comply with all requirements.
It basically means that in most cases, newcomers must wait 3 years before being able to take over from an existing licensed operator – which explains why Bird, Dott, Lime, TIER, Voi and others are not (yet) available in Turkey.
Room to grow: Mopeds and electric bikes
Aside from scooters, progress has been quite slow. Martı was, again, the first to launch mopeds with an electric model in the summer of 2021. Then, in October 2021, GO Sharing launched in Istanbul: it was the first attempt by a foreign shared mobility operator to enter Turkey. With an initial fleet of 300 mopeds, it was a serious endeavour. Since then, the service has not been extended, nor replicated in other cities. Can this be taken as a sign of potential barriers to the development of moped sharing?
Shared bikes are mainly available through public, dock-based services from Yapıdrom’s Baksi, though with relatively small fleet sizes. Martı, however, launched electric bike trials that steadily grew in popularity – the company now operates a total of 15,000 electric bikes and mopeds.
hop’s Yiğit Kipman confirms that the company “is currently working on the integration of e-bikes into its fleets” and should launch pilots in several cities by the end of the year. The same goes for BinBin, which wants to offer “any type of vehicle fitting in the micromobility category” according to their CEO.
Çagri Selcuklu, founder of Duckt (acquired by Acton), a company offering a lock & charge solution for shared scooters and bikes, also bets that e-bikes will help to boost the adoption of shared bikes, as in other European countries: “If shared scooters are successful for their ability to weave through traffic, it is still a new vehicle which can be tricky to handle without dedicated infrastructure. Turkish people are more familiar with bikes, which also allows a safer ride with larger wheels”.
Following Ankara, who should publish the results of their tender soon, Izmir, Gaziantep and others are planning to launch tenders for a bike-share service with a significant part of the fleet being electric. Local authorities should also adopt the latest technological innovations, and adapt the operating model to their needs with a mix of docking stations, virtual stations and free-floating.
When all’s said and done…
The development of shared mobility in Turkey is still in its early stages. Though public bike-sharing is now a common sight in most Turkish cities, fleet sizes remain small. Scooters helped raise awareness of the potential of shared micromobility, but widespread adoption is being inhibited by a lack of dedicated infrastructure and appropriate traffic rules.
With Istanbul already home to a fleet of 36,000 scooters, it seems that, in Turkey’s case, micromobility usage is the chicken, and infrastructure the egg: if the political will is in line with this usage rate, there is no doubt that shared mobility has a bright future.