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Ather Energy – Delivering India’s First Smart and Electric Scooter

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More often that not, innovations in India lean towards the e commerce or service sectors, with multiple startups springing up in these avenues.  In a world which is increasingly becoming conscious about greenhouse emissions, carbon footprints and renewable energy, corporations like Tesla and Nissan are at the forefront of innovation to tackle the aforementioned issues.

However, a scrappy startup from India named Ather Energy is looking to change the game in the Indian market with their smart scooter, the Ather 450.  This scooter is completely electric and runs on a Lithium ion battery. Considering India is the world’s biggest market for two wheelers, this startup aims to make inroads into the market by educating the public about the benefits of using an electric vehicle.

Beginnings

Ather Energy was founded by Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain in 2013, both of whom are alumni of the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM.)  Before starting Ather Energy, they worked at Ashok Leyland and General Motors respectively, both of which are automakers. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Mehta and Swapnil decided to venture into the automotive industry with Ather Energy.

After leaving their jobs, the duo returned to their alma mater (IITM) to work on an efficient Lithium ion battery pack, which in turn paved the way to their first product, the Ather-S340.  This vehicle had a digital touchscreen dashboard, a light chassis and the capability to reach speeds upto 75 kmph.

Funding and growth

Starting up in uncharted territories is no easy task and requires funding as well.  The same was the case with Ather Energy as they had no resources to begin with, especially working in the laboratories of IITM.  However, as luck would have it, Ather Energy received a grant of Rs. 45 lakhs from the Technology Development Board under the Department of Science and Technology, IITM.

Most of the initial funding went towards testing and funds became short once again.  With investors not willing to take a risk with Ather Energy, Mehta and Swapnil turned to Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, the founders of Flipkart.  Ather Energy got its first major funding from the Bansal brothers in the form of a million dollar investment.

Ather Energy’s biggest break came in 2015, when venture capital firm Tiger Global invested 12 million dollars.  This funding allowed the founders to invest in developing, testing, producing and launching their first electric scooter, the Ather-S340.

However, when the Ather-S340 was released in the market, it saw low demand, with customers showing interest in the Ather 450, a higher powered and premium offering.  This led to Ather Energy discontinuing the entry level offering Ather-S340 and instead working on the Ather 450.

Read about: How Carlos Ghosn shaped Nissan

The future

Hero MotoCorp, an Indian scooter/motorcycle manufacturer, was looking to make inroads into the electric vehicle industry.  Therefore, the Company invested 30 million dollars to own a 30 % stake in Ather Energy and also to work on their own line up of electric bikes.  This partnership is mutually beneficial as Hero MotoCorp can leverage Ather’s homegrown technology and participate in the electric vehicle space as well as pursue their internal program.  Ather Energy, on the other hand, can utilise Hero MotoCorp’s distribution network.

Ather Energy also opened experience centers, which are basically spaces which educate people and customers about electric vehicles and also provide holistic interactive experiences.  Ather Energy also has plans to open experience centers in tier 1 cities like Hyderabad and Mumbai. Currently, these experience centers are limited to Chennai and Bangalore.

Ather Energy also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tamil Nadu Government to set up a factory capable of producing 100,000 units of vehicles.  This is in addition to the already existing 25,000 unit capacity plant operational in Bengaluru.

The Indian Government is also taking electric vehicles seriously and it reflected in the Budget for 2019 when the Government slashed the Goods and Services Tax on electric vehicles from 12 % to 5 %.

Ather Energy’s latest models, the Ather 450 and the Ather 450X, are seeing a lot of demand from customers, with steady pre orders rolling in.  Ather Energy, with its smart screen technology which has regular Over the Air (OTA) updates, aims to enhance the user experience.

The Ather 450 has features like navigation, reverse gear, fast charging upto 80 % at 1 km per minute and retails at a price of Rs. 1,23,230 in Bangalore.

It will be great to see Ather Energy’s products on Indian streets as the awareness amongst the Indian public regarding the various benefits of electric vehicles increases.

 

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Emerging Startup Stories

Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool

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Suki: This Startup Wants To Transform Healthcare With Its Artificial Intelligence Tool

We live in a rapidly transforming era where humanity is making exponential leaps in technology.  Thirty years ago, no one would have believed you could talk to an online voice assistant to create tasks and get things done.  Ten years ago, no one would have believed humanity would land robots on Mars.  Technology truly has improved the quality of living of every human who owns a smartphone and has access to an internet connection.  Voice assistants are slowly replacing manual tasks and making lives easier and efficient.  Siri, Alexa, Google Voice Assistant are just some of the widely used artificial intelligence based tools which are employed on a daily basis.  Artificial intelligence, which is hailed as the technology of the future is now slowly making its way into much more complex domains like self driving vehicles, quantum computing and also health care.

Suki, a United States of America based startup founded by Punit Soni, developed their own voice assistant which runs on artificial intelligence to simplify healthcare for doctors and other healthcare professionals.  In simple terms, Suki is akin to Siri for doctors.  While you could order a pizza or schedule an appointment on Siri, doctors could modify, edit and add health records of their patients.  Suki is a powerful tool to help doctors with documentation of health records which often take hours of their (doctors) time.  

Suki currently focuses on documentation but has the potential to expand its usage to data queries, ordering, prescribing and billing.  According to a white paper published by Suki, using its technology increases the time a doctor spends with a patient by 12% by cutting note taking time by 76%.  The time which is saved also brings in a financial benefit of $30,000 more in revenue a year on average for doctors.  

Suki raised a $ 20 million Series B round from Flare Capital Partners, First Round Capital, and Venrock, doubling its total funding to $ 40 million since its 2017 launch.  Suki is also looking to expand its reach in India and has decided to establish Bangalore as their base of operations.  India holds a lot of potential for Suki considering the amount of manual work which goes into almost any sector.  

It would be interesting to watch how Suki and other similar AI based startups would transform healthcare across the world.

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Emerging Startup Stories

The Story of Mens Grooming Startup Bombay Shaving Company

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In the past grooming products were traditionally targeted at the female gender.  However, with changing times and perceptions grooming is now a gender neutral term.  Grooming is now essential for looking great and making a good impression.  However, in a market which is traditionally saturated with products from FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) for women, a startup saw potential in men’s grooming products.  Bombay Shaving Company, found the men’s grooming market in India was largely unorganised and was largely limited to just shaving products.  Today there are products like body wash, soaps, oils, shampoos, creams and perfumes for men’s grooming and the popularity of grooming products is due to brands like Bombay Shaving Company, Beardo and Ustraa.

Beginnings

Bombay Shaving Company was founded in 2015 by Deepu Panicker, Rohit Jaiswal, Shantanu Deshpande and Raunak Munot who are all friends.  It all began with Shantanu, who was a software engineer working for McKinsey in the United States of America.  A chance discussion with a friend who was interning at Harry’s, a New York based shaving brand piqued Shantanu’s interest.  The friend spoke about how shaving brands in America are challenging the likes of Gillette and PRO, which led Shantanu to the realisation that India could also use a disruption in the grooming space.  

Shantanu then spoke to his friends, family and  general consumers about shaving habits and came to the conclusion no one likes to shave because men hated the daily ritual of shaving.  This led to the birth of Bombay Shaving Company.  Shantanu soon roped in his school friend, Raunak Munot, who was the Director of Social Strategy, GroupM New York, and college friends, Rohit Jaiswal, the Head of Channel at Emel and Crompton Greaves, and Deepu Panicker, a senior analyst at McKinsey.

ALSO READ: Social Media Paves The Way For Cosmetic Entrepreneurs

Growth

The team worked with world class experts and manufacturers about fragrances, raw materials and worked with chemical engineers as well as packaging innovators.  The first five hundred customers were acquired purely through word of mouth.  Most of their products are constantly innovated depending on customer insights.  One example would be when a sizable amount of customers wanted the shave to be closer and aggressive, the team designed a new razor part and shipped it to their customers free of cost.  

Secondly, the Bombay Shaving Company team wanted to give their customers a great unboxing experience and it worked.  Customers began to share unboxing videos and pictures on social media and it worked wonders for their branding which led to an increase in sales.  The team also gave users the option to get their names engraved on the shaving razors to add a personal touch for free of cost.  Bombay Shaving Company raised $ 9 million in funding since its inception and now sells more than 40 products across four categories (shaving, bath, beard and skincare.)

Today Bombay Shaving Company has redefined the shaving experience and continues to grow.  In January 2021, Bombay Shaving Company raised $6.1 Mn (INR 45 Cr) in a funding round led by a UK based consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser.  This funding will be used to launch three new consumer brands in the market, invest in marketing and branding and penetrate deeper into the market, beyond the metros.

Let us know in the comments below if you have ever used any of the products of Bombay Shaving Company or plan to use in the future.

 

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Silicon Valley Is Flocking To The Next Big Thing In Tech Called Clubhouse

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While the world is caught up in its daily routine, there is one startup which is silently taking over Silicon Valley by storm.  Named as Clubhouse, the startup has nothing to do with parties but is instead the next big thing in social networking technology.  Clubhouse is slowly growing in leaps and bounds and is attracting a slew of some big names in technology onto their platform.  Since the last couple of weeks, Twitter is abuzz with this new player in town and how amazing its user interface and experience is, and the most unique but important thing is Clubhouse provides direct access to the who’s who of the startup world.

So what is Clubhouse and why is it being hailed as the next big player in the social networking scene? Read along to find out more about this incredible app.

What is Clubhouse?

Clubhouse is a new type of social networking platform which is an audio only platform.  This means every conversation takes place through audio where users speak to let their thoughts known.  Users can create and host rooms where speakers will talk about a particular topic.  Depending on the topic being discussed in a room, a user can join the room as a participant and take part in the conversation.  Clubhouse believes audio is a special medium and users need not worry about being judged because there are no cameras.

How to use clubhouse

Clubhouse is currently only in its beta phase and the app is not open to the public at large.  The app is also available only to iOS users at the moment.  The only way to join the community as a user is through an invitation from an existing user.  This is one of the reasons why Clubhouse is such a rage at the moment.  The team behind Clubhouse say they do not want to scale up very rapidly because they feel it is important to take things slowly.  Therefore the invite only/iOS only is the current offering in beta, but experts and pundits believe it is a genius marketing strategy to get people to talk about the app.

Upon registering, users can choose a variety of interesting topics based on which rooms are displayed.  A user can then join one of these rooms and take part in the discussion. 

Clubhouse currently has a user base of 600,000 users and it is still in its beta mode.  Getting an invite to Clubhouse is a badge of honour at the moment.  Indian Twitter feeds exploded in early January 2021, when AngelList founder Naval Ravikant and Entrepreneur Balaji Srinivasan hosted a room called Startup Bharat, where they spoke about the Indian startup scene on Clubhouse.  Since then Indians have been scrambling to acquire the highly sought after Clubhouse invite.

Evan Williams, Reddit co founder Alexis Ohanian, former Y Combinator President Sam Altman, AngelList co founder Naval Ravikant, Ashton Kuthcer, Oprah Winfrey, Drake, Kevin Hart and many others are some of the influential personalities who are on Clubhouse.

Kevin Harrington, a host on Shark Tank hosted a room in Clubhouse where he listened to pitches from entrepreneurs.  The room had more than 3000 participants and some of the pitches even received funding by the end of the session.  This fast paced and the in-the-moment nature of the app is why Clubhouse is such a rage.

As Clubhouse slowly expands and finally makes itself available for everyone, it would be interesting to see how it will position itself among the likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.  But right now, in its nascent stages, Clubhouse is the place to be and a place of deep learning.

 

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