The world of EVs is constantly evolving and innovation is happening at an incredible pace. Several new startups and even legacy companies have been making headlines in the space. One such startup that recently made headlines was Starya Mobility.
The EV company announced raising $2 million (around ₹16.4 crore) from Ah! Ventures and Exedy Clutch India and others earlier this month.
We sat down with the company’s co-founder and CEO Ravikumar Jagannath to understand how Starya is trying to bring affordable EV solutions to India.
Starya Mobility: The Company
Incorporated in July 2018, the vision behind the company was to make cutting-edge EV technology affordable.
“Now that’s a good vision to have but then we need to start somewhere. We need to see what exactly is the market or what is the product and How exactly, at least we can start off?” Jagannath added.
The answer to these questions led the company to the gearless, ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) scooter market in India.
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“To make a very long story short, let us take a simple scenario. Imagine a lower-middle/middle-class person who’s been riding a Honda Activa for the past 10 to 12 years. Now, when this guy wants to buy a new electric scooter, the least that he will want is at least the same performance. But unfortunately, as of today, especially when the subsidies have decreased and the prices have increased, the equivalent EV alternative for a 125cc ICE two-wheeler starts from around ₹1.35 lakh and goes up to around ₹1.9 lakhs.
“This as you and I both know is something that is almost an impossible thing for a middle class to budget for.”
This is where Starya comes up with its affordable alternative.
“Give me your old ICE scooter. Give me half of what you would have paid for the best of the best electric scooters in the market and I will ensure that you get the same ride performance,” Jagannath added.
“What we have developed is India’s most powerful truly indigenized, electric propulsion retrofit kit.” This is how Jagannath defines the product.
Getting into the specifics, he tells Benzinga India: “It’s a kit that has 6-6.5 kilowatt of power at the peak. The scooter can reach a top speed of almost 85 kilometres per hour and has an acceleration of 0 to 40 in 3.6 seconds and gradability for almost 17 degrees and mileage of at least 75 to 80 kilometres. So, it is one of the best products that there can be.”
In the highest mode, the blaze mode – as we call it – you can almost get a torque of 185 Newton meters at the wheel. The highest speed that the system can produce on a flat road with a single rider is almost up to 85 kilometres per hour when the battery voltage is about 51 volts. When it is an eco mode on a flat road with a single rider with speeds below 40 kilometres per hour, we have clocked up to 80 kilometres of mileage. “
The company holds four patents concerned with different aspects of the technology. The company has also developed an app that helps people keep track of important information about their scooters such as ride history, mileage and power etc.
While the idea sounds innovative, it also poses a lot of questions about the possible challenges in terms of regulations and legalities. Jagannath explains what all logistics are involved and how the company has either addressed or is addressing these.
“The most important thing is that our kit has been approved by ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India). We are India’s only electric propulsion kit that has been approved by ARAI whose kilowatt rating is about four kilowatts.
“Our electric propulsion kit has been designed in such a way that technically it can fit into almost any gearless scooter.” Jagannath further explained that barring a few vehicles like the old Bajaj Chetak or the Honda Kinetic, almost all scooters are compatible with the product.”
Now apart from the technical compatibility, there is also a legal compatibility that needs to be figured out. “In other words, ARAI has to approve every model that you want to put on the road today.,” Jagannath adds.
“As of today, the company has Honda Activa approved and every three months from today, the company will be getting another scooter approved by ARAI.” The company plans to have approvals for most scooter models including TVS Jupiter, Honda Dio and Suzuki Access within the next 12 to 15 months.
How Does It Work
So, how can a customer get their scooter transitioned into an EV through Starya, what would it cost and how does all of that work? Jagnaath explains the two ways people can get this done currently.
“The first way is that you pay ₹90,000 and you become the complete owner or for a very limited period, maybe for the first 500,000 customers we also have a plan where we say, give me 40% of the money and buy the battery pack and the charger. The propulsion kit, the Bluetooth logger and the app will be on subscription at one rupee per kilometre for the next 50,000 kilometres.”
Jagannath explained that the reason behind coming up with the subscription model is that people are used to paying for only the amount of service they use, just like for electricity or a prepaid mobile phone recharge.
So when a customer gets a subscription, they can recharge their scooter through the app with any amount and then travel for that many kilometres. For eg a ₹30 recharge will let you travel 30 kilometres.
Every startup big or small has felt the brunt of the funding crunch in the past few years. Describing his journey Jagannath told Benzinga India that he reached out to over 100 VCs between April 2022 to September 2022.
Out of these 100, Jagannath spoke to around 40-45 VCs. “It’s not like I just chose some random VCs from a list and mailed them, it was not a cold mail kind of thing. I chose VCs who are very specific to the automobile industry,” he adds.
These interactions did not yield much results. Delving into why that happened Jagannath said that “Unfortunately, because of things beyond my control as well, whatever, has taken place around the world in India and all of that. All the VCs suddenly started talking about cash flows and that too positive cash flows. Now, this is something that was unheard of two years ago.
We had raised two angel funding rounds, prior to this, one in March 2021, the second one in 2022 or something. And at that time most weightage was given to the scalability of your business, How quickly you can acquire a customer?
So, although at that point in time, I felt a bit frustrated but I now feel it is a good thing because I feel now we are all going back to the fundamentals of what a business is, right? A business is made to make money or at least be on the path to make money.”
Going forward, the company plans to use a good part of the fresh funds, to scale up and put at least 12,000 scooters on the road. The company currently has about 100 scooters on the road.
“By the end of this financial year, we’re planning to have at least 3,700 scooters on the road and within the next four years we’re planning to convert at least 80,000 to one lakh scooters per year.” Jagannath further said that one lakh is still just 0.01% of the total available market, “so it’s not like I’m giving figures that are, highly impossible. It’s still a very, very conservative figure,” he added.
“Apart from this, we are also using the funding to build our distribution network, which we call Starya Conversion Points. Now, this is very important from a scalability point of view. Because if somebody is sitting in Gujarat, I can’t ask him to bring the scooter to Bangalore to convert.” For that, the company has set up Starya Conversion Points in different places, where people can go and have their scooter transitioned to an EV.
“So, we have plans of expanding or creating 14 Starya Conversion Points (SCP) across six states, within this financial year. And within the next four years, we have plans of almost establishing 250 to 300 SCPs across almost 70% of the Indian states. So, a good portion of the money is going there. We have also set aside almost ₹2 crore for innovation and R&D,” Jagannath added.
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