Why does this startup hire only bikers?

In an industry where major manufacturers are looking at building electric scooters, one Bangalore-based startup has built an electric motorcycle targeting the 250 to 300 cc segment and is on the verge of setting a record for touring India with it — Orxa Energies.

orxa energies founders
Prajwal Sabnis and Ranjita Ravi, Founders of Orxa Energies

Electric vehicles have proven to be practical commuters, and several companies manufacture electric scooters with varying success. Some have opted for quick charging, some to swap batteries, while a few have opted for a combination of both. However, Orxa Energies have added a twist to this concept.

Instead of following the trend to make an electric scooter, Prajwal Sabnis and Ranjita Ravi, the Founders of Orxa energies decided to build an electric motorcycle to target the 250 to 300 cc segment. The product was the Mantis, a quirky-looking electric motorcycle that managed to do a round trip around India, covering 13,510 km in 54 days.

Although the Orxa Mantis is not on sale in India yet, Express Mobility spoke to the Co-Founders of Orxa Energies to understand more about the company’s mission, its goals for the future, and more importantly, why a motorcycle when the industry is chasing scooters?

Addressing one-by-one, starting with the obvious, as to why a motorcycle, we need to understand Prajwal and Ranjita better. The two Founders are avid motorcycle enthusiasts, and hence a motorcycle. Ranjita said, “there are no contenders in the market right now in this space which is like 250 to 300 CC equivalent of motorcycles.”

She added, “Sales of 100 CC motorcycles have been declining over the last few years and it’s being eaten up by the sales of 200 plus CC category. People are moving towards more aspirational motorcycles.”

orxa energies mantis electric motorcycle
The Mantis electric motorcycle will be launched in India around the festive season

Most of the Mantis is designed in-house, all the electronics, hardware, etc. Almost 80% of the electric motorcycle is localised. The company does import a few items such as motor controllers and battery cells, however, the goal is to build the motor controller in house by the year-end.

The batteries are built in-house, and Prajwal said, “We are looking at a life of around 1.5 lakh kilometres with the battery packs because most people move on to another vehicle well before this mark.” In terms of battery cycles, Mantis is looking at different cells that will allow ~2500 recharge cycles.

The battery packs have been through some of the harshest weather conditions, from 0-degrees to heatwaves while on the record run. The Orxa team kept monitoring data from the battery and found it satisfying, despite the harsh geographical changes witnessed during the ride.

Also, the battery pack does not use a cooling system. “Since we derive some of our tech from the aerospace projects, the Mantis’ battery pack has sufficient passive cooling and we do not want to add more complications to something that works fine,” said Ranjita and Prajwal.

The Mantis was designed to have a range of ~250 km in the city with a full charge, however, during the record attempt, Orxa Energies got a 180 to 200 km range consistently on a full charge when maintaining a speed limit of 30 to 40 km/h. On the highway, the Mantis returned a range of 120 to 150 km. “The batteries performed well, and so did the electronics,” said Prajwal.

The company is a ‘lean-startup’ as the Founders would call it. “We raised about INR 10 crores, and we were bootstrapped for the first two and half years,” said Ranjita. “We do have continuous revenues from the R&D projects we do in the aerospace industry,” she added.

The production of the Mantis will be based out of Bangalore itself, but the company will be moving to a new facility in a few months. The new facility will be more of a pilot project with a capacity to manufacture around 4000 units a year. “Our main objective will be to ensure that we have a reasonable amount of confidence in all our processes and we are trying to do things differently, compared to well-established OEMs,” said Prajwal.

Orxa Energies is looking at a place to first establish its processes well with a scalable infrastructure if the demand arises. The company is looking at innovative production methods that will be revealed closer to the launch of the Mantis.

Scaling up means more hiring, and when it comes to that, the Founders are keen on one aspect — “everybody we hire has to be a biker, that’s our first criteria. They have to be close to the product and not somebody who can imagine this on a screen,” said Ranjita.

The Mantis will be launched in India around the festive season, and when launched, the company is looking at selling ~2000 units in the first year and going up to 5000 and 10000 units in the coming years. The electric motorcycle uses aluminium extensively with little plastics. The rear subframe, for example, is an all-aluminium block, unique to the Mantis.

Orxa Energies will target the ‘Biker Meccas’ first with the launch of the Mantis, then to other cities in a phased manner. The company is looking to launch the Mantis in Bangalore first, followed by other cities. Ranjita recalls, “We were surprised with the amount of interest we gained in the North East, as many would call us to find out where we are and come over to see the Mantis.”

She added, “We were surprised by other places too, like Odisha, Andhra, and a few other places where we did not expect so much interest from people.”

When launched later this year, the Mantis will have a regular charging option, although, when the Mantis was first unveiled in 2019, it had a swappable battery. Even for the ride around India, Orxa used the swapping method. The company has reconsidered the swapping ideology since then, owing to multiple reasons. Prajwal said, “We don’t want to put a high-powered battery in an ecosystem that is not ready yet.”

Get live Share Market updates and latest India News and business news on Financial Express. Download Financial Express App for latest business news.

First published on: 29-04-2022 at 17:54 IST