“We didn’t start this to save the environment,” Tarun Mehta confides of the electric scooter company he cofounded in 2013 with college pal Swapnil Jain, Ather Energy. But if challenging the country’s gas-guzzling vehicles helps clear the air, so be it. “The right way to actually do that is to create a product that people will buy—we believe the future is electric,” he says.
Ather and other makers of electric scooters are shaking up a two-wheeled market that grew 6% in the year ended March 31, to 24.5 million units, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. That’s helped draw roughly $93 million in investment to Ather, including a $51 million round in May led by e-commerce marketplace Flipkart cofounder Sachin Bansal that valued it around $400 million. Other investors include VC firm InnoVen Capital and scooter and motorcycle maker Hero MotoCorp, which owns a 32% stake in the company. Hero is the biggest maker of gas-power scooters by sales in India and the world, and this year started selling electric scooters under its own brand.
CEO Mehta and Jain, now Ather’s chief technology officer, first became interested in transport technology while studying engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras)—in the city now called Chennai. “We started building a Stirling engine,” says Mehta, referring to a closed-system engine that uses compression and expansion of liquid to transfer heat into motion. “We couldn’t, but the philosophy of what we wanted to do went pretty deep for us.”
The two took engineering jobs after graduating in 2012, but were soon back in IIT Madras’ labs, using its tech incubator to test an idea for battery packs. That work quickly led them into electric scooters. The next year, Mehta and Jain launched Ather. The name comes from the ancient Greek concept of a fifth element, “the purest form of energy,” says Mehta. “We really wanted to build an energy company. Except for the internet, you can trace almost any industry to energy.”
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Post time: Oct-08-2019