How SWYTCHD is helping people ride an electric vehicle without buying one
Bengaluru-based startup SWYTCHD provides electric vehicles on a monthly subscription, which covers insurance, charging refunds, servicing, maintenance, and breakdown support.
Electric vehicles (EVs) may play a critical role in the future of mobility but the journey so far has been fraught with challenges. While customers may fundamentally be in favour of switching to electric alternatives, when it comes to buying one, they are still hesitant.
The biggest impediments to the adoption of these vehicles on a large scale are range anxiety (the worry that the vehicle will run out of charge before reaching the destination or charging point) and its price. According to an EY report, an electric car costs 2X times an ICE variant in India. The cost of an electric two-wheeler is 15% more than that of an ICE variant.
Here is wherehopes to make a difference by helping customers ride EVs without the hassles of ownership—through an affordable monthly subscription model. The company is also invested in addressing range anxiety among potential customers by understanding their needs and alleviating their concerns related to EVs.
The Bengaluru-based startup, founded in December 2021 by Sameer Arif, offers a range of EVs (both two-wheelers and cars) on a monthly subscription model. The subscription includes costs of insurance, general servicing, maintenance (including normal wear and tear), breakdown support, and charging refunds, up to a maximum distance of 1,200 km a month.
A subscription model enables easy adoption of EVs, vis-à-vis owning them, says the company’s founder.
“With SWYTCHD, users can ride an electric vehicle without investing lakhs into it and also change the vehicle by the end of the month if they wish to. The model has an all-inclusive total cost of usership approach only for electric vehicles because we want to provide easy adoption of EVS for users,” says Sameer.
“Unlike a purchase process that requires a lot of time, dedication and capital, SWYTCHD is an easy decision with minimal paperwork, which can be done from the comfort of the home.”
The subscription starts from Rs 5,000 for two-wheelers and Rs 30,000 for four-wheelers per month. The service is currently available only in Bengaluru.
SWYTCHD has partnered with Bounce as the official leasing and subscription partner for its Infinity scooter. Apart from this, the company also offers two-wheelers from Ather, Revolt Motors, Hero, and Ola, and cars such as TATA Tigor XZ+, TATA Nexon EV XZ+ Lux, Hyundai Kona Premium, and MG ZS EV Exclusive.
Addressing range anxiety
The company tries to tackle the issue of range anxiety among potential customers by talking to them and understanding their needs. A single point of contact addresses all questions and concerns related to EVs.
“We spend a lot of time directly with the customer finding out how much they drive in a day, what is their charging situation at home, and then recommend the right EV to them,” says the founder.
SWYTCHD helps set up charging points at the customer’s premises, at a one-time cost.
In case the vehicle runs out of charge while on the road, the company facilitates access to multiple public charging stations, including that of Ather, Kazam, Bolt, BESCOM, and Tata Power. It also has a 24/7 helpline in case customers have trouble finding a public charging point.
How it all began
Prior to starting up, Sameer was working at Jaguar Land Rover for a decade in multiple roles in the UK. His last stint was as global head of pricing strategy.
At the age of 23, Sameer became the youngest manager at Jaguar. This entitled him to several perks, including riding a premium vehicle on lease, which he could change every six months or after every 6,000 miles. Sameer had to pay a subsidised amount for this.
As he moved up the leadership position, Sameer, at the age of 26, received two vehicles. “And my thought process was why can’t everyone do this?” he says.
Also, while travelling from 2017 to 2020, he witnessed the EV boom in the UK and the rest of Europe and realised that this was not the case in India.
His access to vehicles at Jaguar (without owning them) and the growth of EVs in Europe led Sameer to believe that there was an untapped opportunity in the vehicle subscription space, particularly with EVs, in India. In late 2020 December, he handed in his notice and plunged into entrepreneurship.
How the SWYTCHD subscription works
SWYTCHD works on an asset-light model; financiers buy the vehicles from automobile companies and lease them to the startup.
Currently, the company has 250 subscriptions from customers, predominantly for electric two-wheelers, and around 700 requests are on the waitlist. About 95% of the vehicles are renewed by customers—i.e., the customer continues with the same vehicle they have been using.
Market and competition
SWYTCHD competes with rental businesses such as Zoomcar, Yulu, Revv, VOGO, and Royal Brothers. However, the startup focuses only on personal use in the B2C segment.
The global vehicle subscription market size was valued at $13.34 billion in 2021. It is expected to reach $48.25 billion, growing at a CAGR of 15.35% during 2022–2030, according to Straits Research.
Service and maintenance
The startup says it ensures timely service, parts maintenance, and preventative maintenance through the use of technology.
A telematics unit is used to monitor vehicle usage and mileage and track and locate the vehicle. An immobiliser attached to the vehicle immobilises the vehicle on demand if it’s stolen, misused or towed.
SWYTCHD has partnered with service providers to offer services in case of vehicle breakdown. A GPS tracker telematics unit attached to the vehicle helps the company locate the vehicle. Then a team is sent to the location to retrieve the vehicle.
SWYCHD collects customers’ feedback on the vehicle under use and takes corrective actions based on the feedback.
The biggest challenge for Sameer in his entrepreneurial venture is convincing people to move from ownership to subscription.
“We are relentlessly focussing on marketing to the right consumers. The entire focus of our products, pricing and interaction is on making the journey seamless and hassle-free,” he says.
The company uses targeted social media and search engine tools to find customers who want to use an EV. It also has an Invite-only referral programme for SWYTCHD customers, friends and family.
Growth and future plans
Though the founder refused to disclose the company’s revenue, he said SWYTCHD was unit economics positive.
The startup’s service is currently only in Bengaluru. This year, it plans to expand to Chennai, Hyderabad and other cities where the demand for EVs is growing.
SWYTCHD is looking to raise seed investment to fund fleet expansion and hiring. It wants to add 1,000 vehicles on the road by 2023.
The startup is also working on an app that would provide customers with its subscription details and help them find charging points nearby. “This will help us manage the entire backend operations and also make it easy for the customer to get into an EV and live with an EV,” says Sameer.
Edited by Swetha Kannan