The start-up has sold its entire inventory for 2018-19, notching up 6000-8000 bookings by June
While electric automobiles are far from being mainstream, some companies around the world are trying to bank early upon the technology. In India, Ather Energy, which was founded by Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain in 2013, has developed an electric mobility solution for India, which it believes could turn out to be the perfect vehicle for the Indian customer.
Ather currently has two models in its product portfolio: Ather 340 and Ather 450. The higher-end Ather 450 gives a top speed of 80 kmph and a range of 75 km while the Ather 340 gives a top speed of 70 kmph and a range of 60 km. The bikes have features such as a touchscreen on the dashboard with navigation, system and hardware diagnostics.
The founder-duo initially had an idea of developing a battery which they could sell to companies already producing electric scooters but in the course of their research, they found out that people weren’t satisfied with their vehicles.
“They were big believers that electric was the future but there were several problems with the vehicles that people complained about. People talked about problems such as bad quality, poor power delivery, speed, rapid battery degradation and also the charging time,” said Tarun Mehta, founder, Ather Energy.
In light of this, they decided to build a full scooter which could be sold. They started out with Rs 5 lakh as an incubation investment from IIT-Madras. After a few months, they raised an angel round of `25 lakh and `15 lakh through debt financing and started working on more prototypes for their product.
The idea struck a chord with Flipkart co-founders, Sachin and Binny Bansal who lead Ather’s seed funding of $1 million. The team expanded and moved to Bangalore and then raised Series A funding of $12 million. Ather also has backing from Tiger Global Management.
By the middle of 2016, Ather had a functional scooter and started road testing and also seeking responses from the market. While road testing the prototype, the team thought it could develop a more powerful model and hence started working on the Ather 450. Ather raised `205 crore in Series B funding led by Hero Motorcorp. In 2018, the company set up a plant, began production and has delivered the first batch of vehicles.
The investment also helped Ather build several charging stations around Bengaluru, called the Ather Grid. Also, apart from the sale of the bikes, it has an annual subscription plan called Ather One which covers maintenance and other benefits.
While Mehta didn’t mention Ather’s valuation or margins, he said it has sold out inventory for 2018-19 and had reached 6,000-8,000 bookings by the end of June, 2018. He also said the company hasn’t thought of an exit strategy but ruled out the idea of an acquisition.
But Ather Energy is not alone in the startup electric mobility space. Ampere Vehicles, a similar company has raised funding from Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan and Tata Sons, chairman, Ratan Tata. Hero MotorCorp’s rival, TVS, has invested in Ultraviolette Automotive and Ola co-founders Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati have funded Tork Motorcycles.