SINGAPORE, Aug 1 — Even as ofo pulls out of markets including Australia and Israel, and plans to shut down much of its operations in the United States, the bicycle-sharing giant said it is here to stay in Singapore.
The company’s comments came after some ofo users in Singapore claimed to have received an email from the firm over the weekend, which said it was “leaving” the market.
Yesterday, ofo clarified that its checks showed that Singapore users were not sent the email — which originated from its team in the US, where the company is reportedly scaling back its operations significantly.
On Monday, Christopher Hilton, ofo’s head of public policy and communications, reiterated that the company “remains fully committed to the Singapore market”. Its submission to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) for a licence to operate an 80,000-strong fleet under a new government licensing scheme was a “strong demonstration” of its “continued commitment to Singapore”, he added.
Titled “ofo is leaving”, the email purportedly sent to users here — a copy of which was seen by TODAY — said the operator would be “leaving your town over the next week” after the company did “some critical thinking” about the markets in which it operates.
ofo user Leonard Wong, 22, an information technology undergraduate at the Singapore Management University, received the email on Saturday morning. He said he was “a bit shocked” as the message came just over a month after bicycle-sharing firm oBike abruptly exited the Singapore market.
oBike’s departure on June 25 left scores of users scrambling to recover the deposits they had placed with the firm, which is in liquidation.
Earlier this month, news emerged that ofo was pulling out of Australia and Israel, as competition heats up in its home market, China, with rivals trotting out deposit-free services. The company will wind down its operations in Sydney and Adelaide in Australia over the next two months, and withdraw from Israel, its only market in the Middle East, based on news reports.
The company is also reportedly winding down most of its US operations and letting go of a vast majority of its workforce there as it prioritises growth in viable markets that support alternative modes of transport and allow it to continue serving its customers.
In Singapore, bicycle-sharing operators are gearing up for a new licensing regime to curb indiscriminate parking. For instance, they will have to take steps to ensure that users practise responsible parking, including requiring commuters to scan a unique QR (quick-response) code at designated parking spots as proof of proper parking before they can end their trip.
Applications closed on July 7 and the LTA is expected to award the licences by September. Four operators — including ofo, Mobike, and homegrown operator SG Bike — applied for a full licence.
Three other players — homegrown player Anywheel, ride-hailing firm Grab’s bicycle-sharing marketplace GrabCycle, and Chinese firm QiQi Zhixiang — have lodged applications for a regulatory sandbox licence for companies without an adequately long record of operating a bicycle-sharing service here.
Along with oBike, homegrown operators GBikes and ShareBikeSG also announced their exits over the past two months, with two of the firms citing difficulties meeting the licensing requirements.
Source: The Malay Mail Online