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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.


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

How KhataBook Grew From Simple SMS App To Leading FinTech App In India




How KhataBook Grew From Simple SMS App To Leading FinTech App In India

If you are an Indian citizen living in any of the urban cities of the Country, you might not have heard of this application until recently when the Indian Cricket Team Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, invested in a startup called KhataBook.  The question that was on many minds when Dhoni invested in this startup was what is KhataBook doing that has made Dhoni, one of the most popular celebrities in India, invest in this finance technology.  However in order to answer this question, we need to understand how KhataBook came into being and what it is today.


KhataBook was founded by Ravish Naresh, Dhanesh Kumar, Vaibhav Kalpe and Ashish Sonone in 2018.  The idea for KhataBook however has been on the minds of the founders for a long time before 2018.  It all began when Ravish Naresh along with his friends began a digital spending manager app called in 2016.  The app lets a user understand their spending patterns by making use of the transactional SMS alerts.  The initial traction for Kyte was good but the growth was not reaching the scale the founders had in mind.  After researching the user data they realized that most of their users are based out of metro cities.  Upon digging deeper the data revealed that first time online users did not deal in digital transactions. They were still relying on traditional ‘khata,’ or ledger books. That is when the idea for KhataBook materialised for the Kyte team in 2018.  ‘Khata’ simply stands for account in Hindi.  


In 2018, the Kyte team decided to work on a simple cash management application called KhataBook on the premise that a real life ‘Khata’ can be replaced by a digital ‘Khata.’  The idea was to shift the focus of small time traders and businesses to move their accounts to digital platforms.  The team also included Kyte’s SMS checking mechanism to track data and provide free SMS updates on a user’s customer transactions.  This feature has ensured a three times faster return on credits for their users. The app has recorded $ 5 billion+ cash transactions by November 2018.  What makes this app attractive is that it employs artificial intelligence to track SMS alerts for transactions and use that to keep a track of accounts and spending.  With the internet penetration Reliance Jio offered, it was easier for KhataBook founders to target users in smaller cities and towns.  KhataBook is unique in the finance technology sector and has no major competitors.  However, OkCredit and Vyapaar app are the closest competition KhataBook has in the market currently.

ALSO READ: How One Indian Startup Is Tackling The Problem Of Floral Waste

Kyte is still an ongoing process for the founders of KhataBook, but KhataBook has managed to record 100x of Kyte’s users.  KhataBook currently has 5.5 million active users per month and the startup aims to reach 20 million active users by the end of 2020.

Upon reaching a quick growth KhataBook got its first big publicity push when Dhoni invested an undisclosed amount in the startup and also became its brand ambassador.  KhataBook is now being used in more than 5000 cities and the users range from kirana shops, merchants, recharge shops.  The app currently supports eleven languages and even has users in Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh.


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Emerging Startup Stories

How Ewoke, A Sustainable Fashion Brand, Is Doing Their Bit For Frontline Forces During Covid-19?




How Ewoke, A Sustainable Fashion Brand, Is Doing Their Bit For Frontline Forces During Covid-19?

Founded by a National Institute Of Fashion Technology (NIFT) alumnus, Shruti Rawal, Ewoke is a fashion brand for women to make every day wardrobes eco friendly.  Ewoke was founded with the vision to empower women with the clothes they wear while making a positive impact on the environment.  Fashion is the second largest polluting industry in the world. It takes approximately 2500 litres of water to make a simple white cotton shirt.  That is enough water for one person to drink for three and a half years. If a simple cotton shirt can cost us so much, wonder how much the environment has paid for our wardrobes of cotton and polyester?

This striking thought is what inspired the birth of Ewoke.  Having worked with designers such as Gaurav Gupta and Shriya Som, Shruti quit her job to follow her conscience.  She says, “Our efforts at Ewoke are a work in progress but it will always be you and us together making an impact for this beautiful planet of ours (sic.)”

 With the spread of COVID-19, Shruti noticed that the police officers around their home were without masks.  The shortage of disposable medical grade masks created a need for non medical masks for non medical frontline workers.  Shruti knew she wanted to help with the resources available and she had some hemp fabric available from work, but she was not sure if it was the right choice of fabric for making masks.  She started cold calling doctors and medical practitioners and realized that it was an ideal fabric for non medical grade masks. It is hypoallergenic (unlikely to cause an allergic reaction,) naturally resistant to bacteria, Ultraviolet (UV) rays, and gets softer with every wash.  Another important factor in making hemp masks was that it saves the planet because hemp is biodegradable and uses almost no water during production.  Reusing these masks would reduce the strain on using polyester masks which would end up in landfills. The real challenge was to find a medical grade elastic and due to the unavailability amidst the lockdown, Shruti decided to make the masks with strings.  This made it possible for the masks to be adjusted to any size.

Two weeks in and after a lot of prototyping, shruti had her first batch of masks ready.  She knew exactly to whom she wanted to give them –the police force risking their lives to protect the citizens every day.  The feedback received from the police was very promising and after incorporating some recommendations, the team is making more masks to cover all the police officers on duty in Hyderabad.

The team is currently working with hemp fabric, which is an expensive raw material in comparison to that of polypropylene used in surgical masks.  They are planning to start making masks out of another sustainable fabric, Tencel (a type of cellulose fiber) which is less expensive than hemp, when purchased in much larger quantities.  Shruti believes fashion has always had a purpose. Today, it is being repurposed to protect us from an infectious disease. However, people need to be aware at all times with respect to anything that they consume and the origins of what they are consuming as this would force everyone to be sustainable and ethical. 

If you would like to be a part of this movement, you could contribute or get in touch with Shruti on their Instagram handle.


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Emerging Startup Stories

Zoom Video Conferencing App Downloads Dethrone Whatsapp And TikTok In India




Zoom Video Conferencing App Downloads Dethrone Whatsapp And TikTok In India

The Novel Coronavirus or COVID-19 virus was classified as a pandemic and has spread all over the world.  Governments across the world are currently focussing their efforts and resources towards stopping the spread of the virus and to find a vaccine.  The virus has affected the economies all over the world and forced many businesses and organisations to lay off their employees. This impact on the world economies,  by the virus, can only be gauged after we survive this ordeal. However, amid all this economic wreckage, there is an unlikely star who is thriving in the present economic conditions.

Zoom, a remote video conferencing service based out of the Silicon Valley in America.  As many countries across the globe are imposing lockdowns and shutting down schools and colleges, business and schools have quickly adapted and shifted to the remote conferencing app, Zoom.  More and more users are thronging to the app store to install Zoom because it is the only app currently available which is able to have more than 10 users on a single call. Zoom is currently ranked number 1 on the Google Play Store in India, dethroning popular applications like WhatsApp, TikTok and Instagram. Even though Whatsapp has 400 million monthly active users and TikTok has 119 million active users in India, Zoom managed to beat both these apps in terms of popularity.   Zoom currently has more than a billion downloads on the Google Play Store and 50 million downloads in India alone were done just this month. The global daily active users on the Zoom App rose upto 67% since January 1st, 2020. Microsoft Teams App has over 10 million downloads. Google’s Hangouts advanced features were made free till the month of July which usually cost 25$ per user while Zooms pricier offering sits at 19$ per user per month. Google Hangouts offers upto 250 users per single meeting while Zoom can host up to 500 users in a single meeting without experiencing latency issues.

When the users quickly started increasing, Zoom stepped up to the challenge effortlessly taking on all the bandwidth and usage it is currently experiencing.  Zoom has also removed time limits for the conference calls and made the entire suite free of cost for schools and businesses in the affected regions across the globe, thereby further increasing its popularity.  Students or teachers who fill out an online form using their school email addresses and are then verified by Zoom will have any accounts associated with that school’s domain also gain unlimited temporary meeting minutes. The free Basic accounts are also available by request in Austria, Denmark, France, Ireland, Poland, Romania and South Korea.  When Zoom made its debut on the stock market in April 2019, it was valued at 15 billion dollars, but it is currently valued at 38.5 billion dollars due to the rise in its demand. Zoom founder and Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan said, “I told the team that with any crisis like this, let’s not leverage the opportunity for marketing or sales.  Let’s focus on our customers,” and “If you leverage this opportunity for money, I think that’s a horrible culture.”

The rise in popularity of zoom, which is a cloud enterprise, gives an insight into the future of cloud computing.  More companies and organisations will now look to make the shift towards cloud based models and integrate them into work flows. 

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