BLive will soon be coming up with multi-brand physical EV stores in India. The company is already selling electric scooters and electric cycles from brands like Hero Electric, Ampere, and others through its official website. Not only this, but BLive has also managed to keep the pricing of the products the same as the respective OEMs. In addition, if you buy an electric scooter or electric cycle from BLive’s official website, you are also eligible for some decent discounts and offers. So, how has the company managed to pull this off, and what all the brand has in store for the customers in the months to come, well, we got answers to these questions during a recent interaction with Sandeep Mukherjee, COO and Co-Founder and Samarth Kholkar, CEO and Co-Founder, BLive.
Before proceeding ahead, well, BLive is also India’s first EV experience platform that offers experiential tours on e-bikes through EV tourism. Moreover, you can also rent an e-bike for up to a month through this platform. The start-up has partnerships with brands like Club Mahindra, Taj, Marriott, Hyatt etc. and also, tourism boards in Goa and Pondicherry. The company has so far delivered e-bikes through its online store in 28 cities across India. Here are the key takeaways from the interview.
Express Drives – How have you managed to price the EVs the same as the respective OEMs?
BLive – We have been in the EV ecosystem through our EV Tours business. Ergo we have been able to create immense brand visibility and most importantly gain our customer’s trust. Our partnership with the OEMs has developed over some time. Through a dedicated Partner Relations team, we ensure that we maintain a steady relationship with them to understand the products better and build a deeper connection. We have a wide base of potential customers who visit our platform and in a short time, we have become a significant sales channel for all our partners. We also create our own marketing campaigns for partner brands which help in driving awareness and conversion.
All this cumulatively helps to ensure that the price parity between us and other dealers is maintained. For Electric cycles, we work with the partner brands directly. When it comes to electric scooters, we work in partnership with the manufacturer as well as the local dealers. While we engage and handhold the customer toward the purchase, the local dealer helps if a demo is needed and post-sales with the registration of the vehicle among other things and the service subsequently. For the partner OEMs, the dealership is one revenue channel and we are also a growing revenue channel for them with a wider reach which is not a typical platform for just lead generation but also helping them with growing awareness and driving sales.
How have you been able to offer some added benefits to them?
Our value proposition is the customer experience. The added benefits are present in the customer journey itself that begins right from the choice of brands, the experience of easy booking with an EV expert who understands the requirement, budget and customer profile. An unbiased expert opinion helps the customer immensely. To make the purchase easier, we offer easy finance options like 0% EMI for e-bikes, exchange and upgrade to electric scooters. In select markets, we also lease the e-bike so that the consumer can try the e-bike for a short period before making a complete switch to electric vehicles.
Keeping in mind our customer profile, we also offer several benefits that promote a healthy lifestyle, along with a free stay at one of the most premium resorts in the country, and premium subscriptions to online music listening platforms as well.
What are all the benefits that BLive is offering to its customers in terms of after-sales? Also, if you can share details on the door-to-door delivery, and is it chargeable?
We make the entire buying process from pre-sales to post-sales seamless. The dedicated BLive EV expert who is assigned to every buyer, firstly ensures that all doubts and queries are resolved before the purchase itself. Post the purchase, the BLive Partner Relations Team takes over and ensures that the product is placed on priority by working closely with the OEM to ensure the delivery takes place at the earliest. In case of an e-bike, once delivered, we also assist the buyer in assembling the product at his premises or we provide information about the nearest service center where he could avail the same service.
If there are any issues with the product itself, we ensure that the customer needs are taken care of and the issues are resolved by coordinating with the OEMs. When it comes to the e-scooter, the post-sales service is currently being taken care of by the dealers themselves. So far we have received fabulous feedback for our service from all our customers. We have already successfully delivered across 45 cities in 16 states across the country and are managed on a robust technology platform.
What is the ideation and thought-process behind launching an EV multi-brand store for Indian customers?
We are India’s first EV Experience Platform. We realized early that there was clearly a gap between the brands and the potential consumer and this was affecting the faster adoption of EVs. What was clearly missing was the experience. The experience of trying an EV and buying an EV. We started with EV Tours in 2018, keeping in mind the fact that leisure travel is the best option to give an experience of EVs. We started with electric cycles and combined it with a curated, immersive local tour. Which was akin to a 3-hour demo that the customer was getting. The tour was a combination of easy riding, discovering the unseen with a lot of fun elements around food, music and nature. We are now in 15 locations across 9 states and are a top-ranking activity in every location we operate in. Almost 90% of our customers had never tried an EV before, and this was a great platform for them to try one.
In late 2020, we launched BLive EV Store, India’s first EV Marketplace, which is a one-stop-shop for all two-wheeler EVs. On the store, we offer the choice of brands, EV expertise to guide the customer through the entire process and multiple options of ownership (Loans, EMIs, Exchange or Lease). A lot of our tour customers go back to their hometowns and purchase e-bikes, through the BLive EV Store. So it’s a unique multi-channel model where we create awareness and demand both online and offline and convert it to sale on the EV Store.
Please shed some light on the funding, inception of the online store, expected timeline of the offline store, and also, a short background of the brand?
We are an early-stage StartUp. We have raised 1 Mill USD so far from reputed investors. These include Mr Shivanand Salgaocar and Mr. Shrinivas Dempo, who are renowned industrialists. We also raised funds from DNA Entertainment Networks, Mumbai Angels, LetsVenture and JITO. The funds are being utilized towards the growth initiatives which include expansion to new locations for E-Bike Tours and making the EV Store a wider platform through growing online and offline presence. We keep looking at the people, process and technology as growth areas that can help us gain traction and deliver a superior experience.
The online store came into existence last year post the 2020 lockdown. The BLive team leveraged the downtime and in record time we had the online store up and running. The offline stores will start in July 2021, once the current pandemic situation improves. We have planned 20 stores this financial year. BLive was founded by Samarth Kholkar and Sandeep Mukherjee. With the core idea being, to reduce all hurdles for consumers to transition to Electric Mobility, whether it is with EV Tours where consumers are getting a first-hand experience of EVs or our EV Store, where the BLive team guides consumers through choice, expertise and convenience of ownership.
This year, BLIve is looking at growing the EV tours to over 30+ locations and adding more Two-Wheeler EV brands and ownership models to the EV Store through both online and offline channels. BLive has served over 13,000 customers with EV Tours. The EV store has sold vehicles in over 40 cities across India.
How many stores are you planning to open and where? What’s the strategy?
We are planning to open the stores in Metros and in all State Capitals. We have been studying the market intensively over the last few months,Our research has shown that there is a huge amount of interest being generated in Tier 2 and Tier 2 cities. We have also been present in a large number of these cities operating the EV Tours business. Consumers in these locations show maximum intent towards personal vehicles over shared mobility. In the last few months, we have delivered the products to customers in over 40 plus cities, most of them being non-Metros. However, this does not mean we will ignore the metros. Metros are an important market not just from a visibility point of view but also the massive B2B market that exists here.
Our roadmap of 20 stores in the next one year will be a good mix of Metros and State Capitals. Our first store would be launched in South India. The store will focus on driving deep customer engagement and we have created some amazing in-store experiences to enable the same. We will be leveraging the latest technology for the same.
What are the upcoming brand partnerships & existing players (EV Cycles & EV scooters, separately)?
The existing e-bike brands that we have onboard are Hero Lectro, Felidae, GoZero, E-motorad, Rohm, Ninety One, Svitch, Coppernicus, Roulik and Toutche. We also have two e-scooter brands on board at the moment – Hero Electric and Ampere. We have ongoing conversations with multiple brands. Key amongst them are Kabira, Okinawa, Komaki, Avon, Essel Electric, Motovolt, Battre, Earth EV and Cosbike to name a few.
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