During our recent ElectRoMania event in Brebu, discussions went often beyond electric vehicles and touched the larger topic of crowded cities, lack of infrastructure, including underground parking spots.
Copenhagen and Malmo came up several times, as good examples for European cities encouraging traveling to work by bicycle, reserving dedicated lanes and restricting car access in down town areas. Overall, the hot topic of micro-mobility seems to be on everybody’s mind.
How do we get from point A to B, covering distances too long to walk and too short to drive ?
Two weeks ago, during a Tesla Model 3 test drive in Sibiu, provided by project Electromobility, I met Dan Rotaru, managing partner at Segway-Ninebot Romania, an expert in micro-mobility and asked him some questions about his customers, products and overall concept of “last mile travel” in crowded cities.
Dan provided following interview and agreed to publish it for our electromobility fans:
“Please tell us more about Segway – Ninebot. How did it all begin?
It all began in April 2014 when I got an invitation from the HKTDC (Hong Kong Trade Developing Council) to visit HK Electronics Fair, a high-tech gadget exhibition that stretches over 3 floors, on every one of them you must spend at least 8 hours to explore everything. When I reached the Ninebot booth it was “love at first sight”, not only for the product itself (at that moment there was only Ninebot Elite as a product in their portfolio), but also for the team, their commitment and ideas for the future. 11 hours later, after intense negotiations, I signed the Exclusive Distribution of Ninebot products in Romania. Three months later, 31st of July 2014 we opened our Showroom in Bucharest. Coincidence or not, one year later, April 2015, Ninebot Inc. acquires Segway Inc. thus becoming the absolute leader for the self-balancing electric transportation products worldwide.
What would you say are the main advantages of your products?
We, at Segway-Ninebot put rider safety first. Innovation, research and development together with the use of the latest materials when creating our models lead to premium quality, both efficient and fun to use electric personal transportations solutions.
How did the Romanian market respond to your product?
Well, this part of the business was and maybe still is one of the hardest. At first we struggle with the awareness of the brand, because the Ninebot brand was unknown in Europe in 2014, but things became a little bit easier once the Segway name came into play. Another major challenge was market education. A lot of our efforts and energy go towards explaining potential customers why and how to integrate the products in their lifestyle or businesses and the benefits from doing so.
Describe your customer in a few words. Did their profile change since you first brought Segway in Romania?
As previously mentioned, at first, there was only one product in our portfolio, but once the range expanded, the profile of our clients expanded as well. So yes, throughout the years we have witnessed a change in terms of both age and field of activity. Now, at the end of 2018, if I were to quickly describe our customers profile, I would say people open to technology searching for smarter ways of traveling and businesses looking to add value through efficiency.
How long do you think we have to wait before these personal transportation vehicles become part of our everyday lives?
To be honest, the waiting ended roughly 2 years ago. The future is now. It is happening, all you have to do is look out the window and see how many medium and short electric transportation solutions go by every day, everywhere. The electric revolution is ongoing and I think that in less than 5 years a lot of people will think twice about using their cars within major cities, especially for “the last mile”. Why? Because public transport doesn’t take us exactly where we need to go, parking is not always available everywhere we go, owning a car or any kind of vehicle is not always possible or even reasonable. And walking is not always the quickest or the most convenient way to move around the city. So, why don’t we use a light, easy to carry-on electric personal transportation gadget that solves all of those problems?
We assume that you are an active user of the Segway products. What challenges do you face inside the city?
Definitely the lack of express lanes especially built for bicycles and electric personal transportation solutions is the biggest challenge. Our products are not meant to be used on public roads, so that leaves you with the only option to ride it on the sidewalk. But there you rightfully have to be careful about pedestrians with little kids or people with pets. Also obstacles from the infrastructure or from open construction yards and even illegal parked cars can be considered as challenges. Oh! I forgot to mention another big one: Winter! 🙂
Should we expect any new products in the future?
No doubt about it, at least two new products will arrive on the European market very soon, first quarter of 2019, but for details you will have to follow our announcements on our website and social media channels. Details are yet to be revealed.”
Dan Rotaru, managing partner Segway-Ninebot Romania