CNBC-TV18 recently had a panel discussion about the future of the EV industry post-COVID-19 with several executives of EV start-ups including Ather Energy’s Co-founder and CEO, Tarun Mehta. You can watch the full interview below, but here are excerpts about Ather’s operations in retail and production.
What’s your situation at this point in time? Have you been able to restart operations and where does the manufacturing currently stand for you?
Tarun Mehta: We began our manufacturing operations last week; our offices have been open for a couple of weeks now and so has been our retail in Bangalore and Chennai. It’s a slow start though and our manufacturing capacity is not at full capacity. Our offices are only operating with 15 to 20 per cent of the staff and the retail is already at about 50 per cent.
What is the current capacity you are working with in your production? What is the pain point and more importantly, what is the demand outlook?
Tarun Mehta: On the demand side, Bangalore has been the fastest to recover. We are seeing good demand; not pre-COVID levels yet but fairly close to it at 60 to 70 per cent. Chennai is yet to start but that’s because the retail has just opened there. This is the year we are expanding across the country and we don’t have retail outlets open in the other cities. So demand in other cities is slow right now and only as we see test drives going up in these places I think it will rise up.
Production side I would say we are probably going to be operating at about 30 per cent for a while and hopefully it should touch 100 per cent in two months time.
What about the running as far as funding is concerned? We are seeing layoffs and furloughs from across the start-up ecosystem. What is Ather’s situation?
Tarun Mehta: The COVID disruption has meant that all of us have to go and redo our annual operating plan. All of us have rethought our budgets completely and I think that’s true across every single start-up out there. So did Ather. We have brought in lot more focus. We had multiple vehicle programs running and we have focused them down to one vehicle. We are focusing a lot more on operations improvement as opposed to new technology development. On the funding side, we have been lucky to have some really strong investors and they have continued to back us. I think we are good for now and as sales grow by the end of the year and the results come in, I don’t think funding is really a big challenge. Obviously this changes the equation but liquidity is hopefully not going to be a problem.