This Man Bought 10,000 Ride-Sharing Bikes to Give to Poor Students

Entrepreneur Mike Than Tun Win bought the bikes from liquidators to donate to school children across Myanmar.

Jun 24, 2019


This Man Bought 10,000 Ride-Sharing Bikes to Give to Poor Students | Entrepreneur Mike Than Tun Win bought the bikes from liquidators to donate to school children across Myanmar.

What does the collapse of China's bike sharing startups and school children in Myanmar have in common? You would think not much. But that is not the case since entrepreneur Mike Than Tun Win decided to rescue the bicycles from going into vast waste piles to give to students, who often walk many kilometers to go to school.

Than got the idea to rescue the bikes when the stationless bike-sharing company oBike left the Singapore market in 2018 and began the process of liquidating its bikes. He was heartbroken to see mountains of discarded perfectly usable bikes.

“It felt extremely sad for me to see all these bicycles piling up in junkyard, left around roads and parks unattended and rusting,” Than blogged.  

“The manufacturing of these bicycles can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 per unit and a lot of natural resources are now left to waste and sent to blazing furnaces to recycle if we are lucky or just simply left rusting somewhere.”

Than remembered his trips to Myanmar where he saw lines and lines of poor students walking long distances to school. He decided that it would be a great idea to try to buy the no longer used or needed bikes to donate to those students.

Than, whose companies include the travel startup and tech entrepreneurship project, created LessWalk, a nonprofit organization that is buying the bikes from liquidators and refitting them, so they are suitable for students according to TechCrunch.

This means refitting the bikes with a second seat and switching the QR code-scan lock for a regular key lock and then shipping them to Myanmar. LessWalk is buying the liquidated stock at much lower than retail price, but the cost of fixing, refitting, and shipping the bikes are estimated by the organization to be around $35-$40 per bike.

Than told TechCrunch that the project was funded with around $40,000, he provided half and the other half came from donations and funders. “Suddenly, there was an opportunity to buy at [a] fraction of [the] price,” he said. “The benefit it can develop is well beyond that cost.”

LessWalk currently has around 4,700 high-quality single-speed bikes that were never used sitting in a warehouse that will be distributed to students by the end of 2019 (5,300 are still in the refit process). But giving away thousands of bicycles in a country with 50 million people is not that easy.

Than said that he is in contact with government organizations and civic groups to identify which children should receive the bikes. The focus is on students aged 13-16 who have to walk 2 kilometers or more to school every day. He believes that the bikes will be given out every few months with support from the groups.

“I’m only halfway through the journey. The remaining 50 percent is making sure we have an impact,” Than said. He is hopeful that he can convince global friends to follow his lead and out the hundreds of thousands of abandoned bikes to good use.

Many other organizations give bicycles to community-based organizations in Africa and around the globe, but few, if any, are accessing this goldmine of new bikes. Hopefully, more nonprofits will purchase the bicycles that are now in graveyards across Asia and give them to the people who really need them.

Changing Lives One Bike at a Time
Healing Africa with Pedal Power
This Teacher Bought a Bus to Keep His Students in School

Bonnie has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.