Last week ElectricVehicleWeb caught up with Nishchal Chaudhary, the Founder of Jaipur-based BattRE Electric Mobility to ask him about his journey with electric vehicles and the Indian startup company’s expansions plans. Here’s what he told us:
Could you share with us your journey so far with BattRE Electric Mobility?
Nishchal: BattRE One, our first product, launched on the world environment day in 2019 aimed to fill the need gap and address the consumer expectations. We offered a product with a long battery life offering a long range, ease of charging and affordable price point for the value it offered.
The BattRE One was India’s first lithium ferro phosphate based battery powered vehicle that has a lifecycle of 2000 recharges, which is almost double of lithium ion battery and six to seven times of lead acid battery life. The solution we offered was a portable battery, which can be charged anywhere in the office or home and we also offered a 10 Amp fast charger.
The vehicle has a range of 80 km per charge, which was almost 1.5 times more than nearest competitor. Our battery has a life of 6 years and it comes with a 6 years warranty.
It is not the cheapest of vehicles (Rs 74,000 ex-showroom today), but it is packed with features like – front and rear disc brakes, LED lights, remote key, anti theft alarm, USB charger etc. and the price to feature ratio is very much in favor of what we were offering to the consumers.
The product had a unique design, it is an aspirational product with a unique design that a youth of India could relate to and look and feel of the vehicle where a customer would want to associate him or herself with a brand. So that is how our journey started.
You have a diverse product range, could you explain how you crafted them?
Nishchal: We rolled out our brand with Southern markets first, we knew the South had the highest propensity to buy an electric vehicle priced at around Rs 74,000 because of higher disposable income. Gradually we expanded into Western part of India with Gujarat, Maharashtra.
With an eye on adding new markets of North, East and Central part of India – in January 2020, we decided to launch our entry level product, the BattRE Lo-EV – at Rs 59,900 – a price point more acceptable for these markets. We have recently increased to Rs 62,000.
While the price point was more accessible – the Lo-EV also came with the premium features like the dual disc brakes, USB charger, remote key and anti theft alarm everything, but the battery size was reduced from 38 to 24 (Unit). We took a hit on our margins, so did our dealers, but it was needed to suit the wallet of buyers in new markets.
Today we are present in West Bengal, Jharkhand, HP, UP, also in Punjab and Rajasthan.
From two basic products, we topped it off with an IoT variant on BattRE One (above), which comes with a smart speedometer, it has Bluetooth connectivity, you can connect your phone, you get the call alert, navigation assist on the speedometer itself.
The vehicle comes with a complete diagnostic set up on the vehicle, one can get information related to motor, controller, throttle or any moving part – the tool can reflect on the screen as well as your mobile phone. It is more of a gadget or a scooter with IoT, with high end features. It was India’s second connected scooter.
Then we also introduced a SIM based variant on BattRE Lo-EV which one can remotely mobilize and immobilize the vehicle. It was targeted at the fleet companies or aggregators or anybody who has multiple scooters, so that they can remotely track and manage their fleet. That came at Rs 65,000. It is the most affordable connected scooter in India probably, this is how our journey has been.
How big is your retail footprint and what is your expansion plan?
Nishchal: We have 85 dealers spread across 63-64 towns. Our largest markets are Chennai, Mumbai and Gujarat. As we increase our penetration in the eastern belt, we are getting very positive responses from Eastern India, specially from Jharkhand, West Bengal as we are expanding our distribution in UP East and UP west, I am sure we will be able to get more output from these markets.
By the end of this financial year we will be touching around 125 and next year end, we will have around 300 dealers, which will give us a pan India presence.
How many scooters have you sold since launch and what is the plan going ahead?
Nishchal: We have sold about 2,000 units in volumes. With October and November the number of scooters that we will be selling will be more than what we sold in the last full year. That is the kind of strong traction we are seeing.
Every month there is a growth and especially after the lockdown was lifted, people who were using public commutes, now are moving towards personal mobility. Ours is a more affordable vehicle than petrol vehicle not only at the time of purchase but on running cost. Our Scooter comes at Rs 62,000 versus a petrol run BS VI scooter comes for Rs 75,000, secondly the cost of running is almost 10% of the cost of petrol vehicle. The overall cost of ownership says over a period of six years, you can actually save around Rs 2-3 lakh if you are running around 50 kilometers every day.
What is your take on Make in India and reducing dependence on imports especially from China?
Nishchal: We are working on 100% made in India electric-bike – a high speed motorcycle.
When we started, the ecosystem for electric vehicles was not present in India. There was nobody making motors or controllers, batteries, however all that has changed in a short span of time. Now a lot of components on our scooters are completely made in India.
There are still certain components being bought from China, but as the ecosystem is developing, we will source more locally. We have already signed a MOU with an Indian company for sourcing of motors and controllers locally. We have already developed a prototype of the same.
Today chassis parts, wiring harness, seats, shock absorbers are made in India. Only the motors and controllers were the biggest bottlenecks, because there was nobody who was making it. We have got the prototype ready, by November, December, we will be using made in India motors and controllers.
Could you shed more light on your 100% locally-made motorcycle?
Nishchal: It is going to be one of a kind vehicle, it is going to be in a segment, where no one else is present. It is going to be a high speed vehicle, it will be addressing a very large population and a vehicle for a daily commute. It is definitely going to be a very powerful bike and it will have efficiencies built in. The motor and controller will be made in India.
Any plans of enhancing the scooter range with new models?
Nishchal: Right now, the focus is on localization of parts for scooters. Our scooters are very high on quality and we meet all the consumer expectations in the segment where they cater to.
We are going to be focusing only on the motorcycle’s launch for the time being and once that is launched, then we’ll be going in for a high speed scooter, but that is not immediately, it is at least another year from now.
Are your prospective buyers facing financing challenges?
Nishchal: Initially we had challenges, but now we have a tie-up with seven-eight finance companies, we have got Money Tap, Shopsafe, IDFC, Bajaj Finserv, amongst others. The new age Fin-Tech companies, they don’t have any location restriction, even in small towns, consumers get finance.
Any plans of exporting? Some of your rivals are already exploring nearby countries?
Nishchal: Our focus is on pan India presence first. Once that is done, Africa definitely is on top of my mind, but we have not really acted on that as of now.
Display image used in the story is representative. Image of the IoT BattRE scooter sourced from the manufacturer’s website.