From fuel to EV charging stations, FuelBuddy aims to disrupt mobile energy distribution
The Turning Point is a series of short articles that focus on the moment entrepreneurs hit upon their winning idea. This week, we feature New-Delhi based FuelBuddy, a mobile energy distribution platform.
Seven-year-old mobile energy distribution platformrecently raised $20 million in a round led by Jindal Power Limited, RJ Corp and Nilesh Ved (Chairman of Apparel Group, UAE) through a special purpose vehicle.
With the latest cheque, the New Delhi-based startup has set its sights on not only expanding its presence in India but also reaching foreign markets, especially the MENA and South East Asia.
The startup is also transitioning from being a fuel-as-a-service to an energy-as-a-service provider.
“We are also at the development stage of bringing mobile EV charging stations to the consumers,” Co-founder Gautam Malhotra tells YourStory.
The charging stations will follow a charging-on-demand system, which will be managed by FuelBuddy’s central tech team. This service, the team says, will reduce the range anxiety among EV users and also help in boosting the EV charging infrastructure of the country.
The Aha moment
“The journey of FuelBuddy began in the year 2016, when Adnan Kidwai, Divij Talwar and I identified a gap in the fuel delivery industry,” Gautam tells YourStory.
The gaps in fuel delivery were many, Gautam notes. Individuals procuring smaller quantities from the local petrol pump was neither legal nor safe. Also, there were strict regulations when it came to fuel delivery such as restrictions on buying a minimum of 12,000 liters of fuel from oil marketing companies.
Gautam and his co-founders set out to solve challenges in fuel delivery using technology.
Roadblocks along the way
While the company began its journey in 2016, it received pilot approval to begin operations in March 2018.
For two years, FuelBuddy had to deal with several obstacles. As the first movers in this space, the company worked closely with the government to get the policies in place. The Petroleum Rules, 2002 had no guidelines on fuel delivery.
“The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Petroleum and Explosives Safety Organisation (PESO) and Niti Aayog provided a lot of support and they believed in our vision and helped us with the requisite approvals to provide the right quality and quantity of fuel required by our customers in a transparent manner,” Gautam says.
The team also used the two years to understand the market conditions and problems faced by customers and worked on a pilot with Oil Marketing Companies to see what technology will help to make the deliveries safer and transparent.
Also, since FuelBuddy was the first company in India to set up doorstep fuel delivery, it had to spend time educating clients.
“Ours was a completely new concept, which challenged the status quo,” he says.
FuelBuddy also had to work on the process of procurement and storage of fuel. As a norm, companies had been writing off 10-15% as loss due to pilferage and adulteration.
The co-founders started to educate customers about quality and quantity tests.
With only three customers giving FuelBuddy a try in the beginning, word-of-mouth became the startup’s main marketing tool.
But in Bengaluru, FuelBuddy took a slightly different approach. The city’s troubles with power supply are well known. FuelBuddy initially targeted customers with backup generators. Gradually, the startup began acquiring non bulk customers who were fed up with the power problems.
“So acceptance was gradual but when we increased our network, the word spread like wildfire,” shares Gautam.
Stepping into the future
Today, FuelBuddy is a mobile energy distribution platform with about 45,000 customers in over 130 cities. It says it registered a growth of more than 600% in the fiscal year 2022 and expects over 300% growth in 2023.
The startup's clients include Varun Beverages, Coca-Cola, Amazon, DLF, Infosys, Taj, Hitachi, Amazon, Flipkart, Mahindra Logistics, and Delhivery. It also supplies to sectors such as hospitality, construction, mining, heavy machinery among others.
FuelBuddy recently forayed into the lubricants space via its partnership with Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL).
In addition to EVs, FuelBuddy is also focussing on marketing lubricants, in partnership with IOCL and HPCL, to its customers.
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti