This interview is part of a new Market Movers series powered by Zoba.
Name: Ats Joandi
Position: Head of Operations at Tuul
Tuul operations: Responsible for approximately 2,000 e-scooters in Estonia’s Capital, Tallinn.
Background: Joandi has recently joined the micromobility scene bringing knowledge from the aviation industry in his hold. He used to be the point of contact for all departments in any trouble as Flight Operations Dispatcher at XFly. Now, he needs the same flexibility and readiness to react to every event in his day-to-day operations at Tuul, including dealing with snow challenges.
Zag Daily: Tuul says it is the only fleet operations company in the world that has full control over its development, production and service management. What does that mean?
AJ: “At the beginning of this year, we restructured our companies so we are now one group. Kõu is the parent, and underneath you have Tuul, which is a shared service provider, the e-scooter manufacturer Äike and the IoT platform Comodule. For Tuul, it means we get the scooters from Äike and the IoT plus firmware and electronics from Comodule. All three companies are next to each other in Tallinn. So any e-scooter issues, the factory is just next door from our operations room.”
Zag Daily: What operational benefits does that bring?
AJ: “It means we don’t have to ship vehicles to another country or company. Essentially, we couldn’t be closer to the production chain. Any new ideas or quick modifications that need to be made, we just knock on the next door and say: ‘Hey, I have an idea. Let’s try this out’ so we can react quickly. It also means we don’t have to send ten emails or think about logistics, as we have our own people in the same building. This also speeds up our reaction time, which means our vehicles stay out on the streets for longer. Our target is a 92% uptime.”
Zag Daily: One of the company’s selling points is that it operates all year round. What challenges does Tuul face by offering this?
AJ: “Being based in Tallinn means we are likely to get a lot of snow during the winter, which is a big challenge because it can get as low as -20°C. Every year when the first snow comes, the only e-scooter operator to remain active is Tuul as we know our users still want to use the service. We have operated now for three winters but city authorities have asked us if we will get rid of the e-scooters for the winter season because they say it is affecting the work of snow cleaners.
“It can get hectic because snowploughs completely cover the e-scooters. They are buried so deep that our trackers can fail to precisely pick up their location. So far we have managed to recover all of them, but according to city authorities, some of the snowplough drivers are refusing to get out of their vehicles to move the e-scooters.”
Zag Daily: Have you managed to resolve the situation?
AJ: “We are trying to work together to find a solution, but we don’t want to take the easy option and just get rid of the e-scooters as then more people will drive cars. To make things easier, we have agreed to reduce our fleet from around 2,000 to a few hundred e-scooters from the middle of December and just concentrate on the hotpots. We have 50 hotspots during the summer and now in the wintertime we take care of 10 of them. So mainly in the winter now we are preparing for the next season.”
Zag Daily: What projects have you been working on during this time?
AJ: “This year we have launched Tuul for Business where companies can pay for rides for their employees in a cost-efficient way, while helping them hit their sustainability targets. Businesses can choose whether to offer their staff unlimited rides, Tuul credits for a certain number of rides or a Tuul ticket which gets them a 30-day ticket to ride for an hour each day.
“All of our staff have a monthly ticket and we have already had a lot of interest from companies in Latvia and Estonia. From an operational standpoint, companies are asking for a set amount of e-scooters to be deployed in front of their office so we are currently working all this out.
“I think the key in all of this in operations is that we try to be really flexible and optimistic with all the city authorities and companies we work with. We know our e-scooters are really benefiting people so we want to cooperate with all the different parties and continue finding solutions that work for everyone.”