Ather Energy, which launched India's first intelligent electric scooter and an electric vehicle charging network, is set to zoom into the growth phase. Co-founder Tarun Mehta tells YourStory Business Editor Vishal Krishna that changing the ride experience has led to huge pre-orders.Vishal Krishna
Founded in 2013 by IIT-Madras graduates Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, the startup has launched two electric scooters – the 340 and 450 – along with the AtherGrid, an electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
In this video interview, Ather Energy Co-founder Tarun speaks to YourStory about how the design of Ather Energy electric scooters sets them apart, why they opted for a lithium-ion battery, the ride quality, and how simplifying charging infrastructure is making their bikes an attractive option for families.
“We always thought techies would buy our product. But we see all kinds of people walking in to pre-order the vehicle,” says Tarun Mehta, in a candid video interview with YourStory. “There has been a terrific response; we are booked out till August in Bengaluru,” he says.
The launch, which happened three months ago, brought in families that wanted to experience this vehicle, and make this purchase as their first vehicle in the family. And while curiosity may be bringing in a few, a lot of people have now seen the product or ridden one and are keen to know more.
“We have pre-order interest from tens of thousands of people across India, and we plan to go to them soon. The Chennai experience centre is under construction and will open shortly, to be followed by ones in Pune, Hyderabad, and Mumbai. We plan to be present in four-five cities by the end of this year," Tarun says.
The interest in EVs is high across the country, and the online Ather community reveals that some owners have taken their electric scooters long distance. – with one riding the bike from Bengaluru to Tirupati, a distance of 254 kilometres.
“A customer has taken the bike to Goa; many have gone to Nandi Hills and back. An electric bike means you need to plan your trip, but it’s possible,” Tarun says.
It’s clear that the time of electric vehicles has come, and India must put its weight behind EVs and relevant infrastructure.
Ather Energy is resolving the charging conundrum with its simple three-pin charger that can be plugged into any electrical socket to charge the bike.
Moving on to their pride and joy - the 450, which is a “connected vehicle”.
“The vehicle comes with a built-in 3G SIM card, and has a seven-inch touchscreen dashboard. This lets you toggle between different riding modes, run Google Maps navigation, and upload documents like licence, RC book, and insurance papers,” Tarun says.
Tarun and Swapnil have scaled the five-year-old organisation to 550 employees, with almost half of them in engineering and R&D. HeroMotoCorp has invested Rs 330 crore in them; Tiger Global has backed them with $12 million. There were lot of doubts about whether a young startup could pull off a great automotive product. However, Ather Energy has silenced critics with their product and infrastructure.
Realising that keeping batteries charged was critical, the company set up 32 charging stations across Bengaluru before they launched the bike. The dashboard provides accessibility to the cloud, which helps the user find and navigate the vehicle to the nearest available charging point.
“We had set early deadlines, but senior folks from HeroMotoCorp told us that we needed to get the product absolutely right before release. I am glad we delayed it,” Tarun says.
The Ather bike goes 75 km on a single charge, but some users say they have managed 100 km. The total time to charge is four hours; 80 percent of the battery charges in two hours.
Ather 340 and Ather 450 are priced at Rs 1.1 lakh and Rs 1.3 lakh, respectively. The lithium-ion battery, the aluminium frame, the telematics unit, and the powerful 3.5 kw motor make it a premium electric scooter experience.
The company offers two financing options, a long-term EMI product for five years, and a five-year lease where a refundable down payment of Rs 75,000 entails a monthly rent of Rs 2517 for 36 months. The individual can chose to return the vehicle after the chosen period of usage and kilometres travelled.
According to Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), there are 100,000 EVs in use in India at present. A recent study indicated that around 87 percent of the country’s population who own a vehicle is willing to switch to EVs.
If the government, and startups like Ather Energy, put their weight behind EVs, we’ll soon ride into an electric and efficient future.