The disruption caused by COVID-19 has forced Ather Energy, the Hero MotoCorp-backed electric scooter maker, to abandon its plans of developing an electric motorcycle and instead focus on strengthening its existing product line-up.
The Bengaluru-based start-up had set its sights on the electric motorcycle segment, which was a natural progression after it had launched three electric scooters over the last seven years.
In an earlier interaction with Moneycontrol, Ather’s Chief Business Officer Ravneet Phokela had spoken about the company’s plans to enter the electric motorcycle segment. But with market expansion and the setting up of a new plant getting priority, Ather has put its electric motorcycle ambitions on the backburner.
Bird in the hand approach
Speaking to Moneycontrol, Tarun Mehta, co-founder, Ather Energy said: “We are not looking at a motorbike right now; that was one change because of COVID-19. We have now decided to focus a lot more on the products that we have. So, from engineering, design, industrial design, operations, supply chain everyone is assigned to essentially focus on the products we have and new product development has been pushed off for this year, including the motorbike.”
While the electric scooter segment has seen multiple launches over the last few years, the electric motorcycle segment has seen a commercial launch by only one company, Revolt Motors, promoted by Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma.
More than a dozen start-ups, some of which are even backed by popular corporate houses such as Bharat Forge and TVS Group, and some that have Chinese product lineage, have been working to launch electric motorcycles over the next 1-3 years.
Apart from disrupting its launches, the pandemic also delayed Ather’s market expansion, considered crucial for its mid-term strategy. Despite having started retail sales operations in 2017, Ather had not moved beyond Bengaluru. Only in 2019 did the company expand to Chennai.
Before more cities could be added, COVID-19 disrupted the company’s plans. By August, Ather should have added four more cities but its newly appointed dealer partners were not able to start operations because of the lockdown.
The delay is of only 3-4 months, says Mehta, adding that Ather is on track to add eight new cities in FY21: Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai Delhi, Kochi, Coimbatore, Kolkata and Ahmedabad.
The 450X, the most expensive electric scooter on sale in India at around Rs 1.5 lakh, will enter these markets with deliveries slated to begin from November, with test rides beginning a month earlier. Ather’s franchise partners will set up ‘experience centres’ in each of these cities.Ather will be setting up its fast-charging network, Ather Grid, across each city before delivery. It plans to set up 10-15 fast charging points across each city in Phase 1. With 38 charging points in Bengaluru and 14 charging points in Chennai, Ather Grid claims to be one of the largest fast-charging networks for electric vehicles in the country.