[Startup Bharat] This Kochi-based EV startup aims to bring stylish e-bikes to Indian roads
As a marine engineer, Jithu Sukumaran Nair has visited several countries. It was during his stay in Shenzhen, China that Jithu learned about the electric vehicle (EV) industry and decided to venture into this segment.
“I wanted to develop electric vehicles and do it in India,” says the Kochi-born entrepreneur.
This was the genesis of VAAN Electric Moto – an electric bike manufacturing startup based in Kochi. At present, VAAN Moto has a team of 22 members.
Jithu did not choose the easy route of importing electric vehicles. Instead, in 2017, it undertook extensive market research to understand consumer perception of electric vehicles in four cities – Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune.
“During this period, people were not ready and uncertain about buying an electric vehicle, but a lot of things have since changed for the better,” he says. Your story.
VAAN Moto – officially registered as a startup in March 2019 – decided to focus on high-end electric bikes, clothing and accessories.
To help him in his business, VAAN Moto has partnered with the main players in this segment, including Benelli from Italy and KTM’s Kiska from Austria. While VAAN Moto designs these e-bikes, Benelli supplies components and Kiska helps with branding.
And VAAN Moto was in no hurry to introduce its model to the market. “We spent over a year just on engineering,” says Jithu.
VAAN Moto offers two models of e-bikes that feature a unisex compact frame, 20-inch wheels, removable batteries, indicator light, and more. These bikes can operate in three modes: normal pedaling, pedal assist mode, and throttle mode.
In throttle mode, the bike can accelerate to a top speed of 25 km per hour, he claims. “Developing a smaller bike with sophisticated engineering is much more difficult than regular bikes. Our frame is very different,” says Jithu.
The Urbansport Pro model from VAAN Moto
Earlier in January, the Kochi-based startup launched its two models, at the price of Rs 60,000 and Rs 70,000, respectively, targeting users in the 18-35 age bracket. Nevertheless, it has found takers beyond this age bracket.
At present, these electric vehicles are available in Kerala. VAAN Moto has also received requests from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra to launch its vehicles in these states.
“We first introduced these bikes in Kerala because we want to be closer to the customer and immediately solve any starting problems they would have,” says Jithu.
To date, VAAN Moto has sold 35 e-bikes and aims to sell around 750-1,000 units per month, including outside Kerala.
Regarding its immediate plan, VAAN Moto plans to manufacture an electric moped and is working on a hybrid electric boat. It aims to build these electric vehicles in India instead of relying heavily on imported components.
Seeded since inception, VAAN Moto recently raised Rs 6 crore in a pre-Series A funding round from Asian Energy Services. It plans to raise another round of funding to set up its battery swap infrastructure.
In the e-bike segment, the startup competes with Hero Cycles, GoZero Mobility, Trek Sizes, etc.
The market opportunity in India for the e-bike segment is still small. According to Mordor Intelligence, “Apart from the growing customer preference for e-bikes for leisure and adventure activities, the adoption of e-bikes in several other sectors, such as logistics and rental, is driving the growth of the e-bike market. e-bikes in India”.
He added, “A large population in the country, along with the increase in last-mile logistics, is expected to provide the e-bike market with a growth opportunity over the forecast period.”
Talking about what sets VAAN Moto apart from its competitors, Jithus says, “We took a long time to build the product and the brand, because our product is very different in terms of power, style and finish.
Establishing the company in Kochi made more sense to the founder as the state government is actively promoting the startup ecosystem.
For the project’s chief consultant at Hindustan Shipyard Limited, Jithu says the electric vehicle segment was uncharted territory. “Building ships is totally different from electric vehicles, but we are still learning,” he adds.