What is the profile of your clients?
We have sold more than 400 e-bikes and kits. There are people who have retired from IT and want to pursue a healthy hobby. There is also this septuagenarian with a health problem, who started cycling after retirement and has now covered thousands of kilometres. People who buy our products have certain stories behind them, while some, when they buy our cycles, build a story. We launched our first premium bicycle in 2018, which has got tremendous performance.
How does a cycle navigate the problem of speed and time?
The average traffic speed on major roads in metropolitan cities across India is around 20 kmph, whereas a cycle goes at 25 kmph. Cycling may just be the simplest and fastest way, (and today, even fine free) on Indian roads.
How challenging was it to sell the concept in the market?
We were not experts in cycle manufacturing and user segment was ultra niche. We came up with a kit so that niche users could convert bicycles they love… It took 193 demos before our conversion kit was sold to the 194th customer. Most people had no idea what an electrical bicycle was. There were hardly any videos on YouTube. In the next two-and-a-half years, we understood a lot about the bicycle ecosystem. We worked with local and international vendors. We could see e-bikes in Europe or China and had no idea if the Indian market wanted it and, if they wanted it, in what form.
We thought, ‘let us explore what is the actual need of the people and, accordingly, build our product around it’. It was bridging a gap between what you feel you need and what you actually need. We didn’t want to simply deploy western solutions to Indian problems, which has been a general tendency.
What is the nature of your work at Pune University?
We have started a programme, under which Pune University’s MTech and PhD students will get a chance to be involved with product development and create something real and relevant to the industry. We are developing power train technology for two and three wheelers, scalable up to four-wheelers, which could help Indian automakers apply for FAME-2 subsidy. In a way it will help the end user.
How has the economic slowdown impacted you?
We are geared to ride out the slowdown. A five per cent growth is, in our opinion, still growth. It is not negative growth. This has given us time to concentrate on R&D and create a better product. As for investment, we are self-funded. We have kept ourselves lean and worked extremely hard in a smart way. We have not directly focussed on going to the masses but on evolving as a brand and a good sustainable product. If the product is good, anyway it will go in mass.
Why haven’t you sought out investors?
Chanakya said that “you don’t have to make all mistakes by yourself. You should also learn from others’ mistakes”. Investors are of two types: money and return-oriented, and strategic investors. We have seen that, many a times, investment from an individual or firm interested in instant profits ruins the vision of the company. Many investors keep following your timelines and interfering with your ideas. It is present in the deep roots of our company that technology is an art and should evolve with time. We do need money but we have ideas and creativity, which we would like to continue with. We welcome monetary investments but not technological intervention.