Startup Mantra: Pune-based EV startups have raised more than Rs129 crore funding

Pune: The viral video of an electric vehicle (EV) catching fire in Pune city has not only alarmed prospective users, but also strong proponents of EVs
The viral video of an electric vehicle (EV) catching fire in Pune city has not only alarmed prospective users, but also strong proponents of EVs. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)
The viral video of an electric vehicle (EV) catching fire in Pune city has not only alarmed prospective users, but also strong proponents of EVs. (REPRESENTATIVE IMAGE)
Updated on Apr 02, 2022 04:21 PM IST
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BySalil Urunkar

Pune: The viral video of an electric vehicle (EV) catching fire in Pune city has not only alarmed prospective users, but also strong proponents of EVs. Even though these vehicles have been tested by trusted agencies, the basic flaw in the design is that these batteries were never originally designed to suit Indian conditions. Akshay Singhal, a 2019 Forbes Under30 Asia awardee and founder of EV battery technology startup ‘Log 9 Materials’, said, “If we force feed such batteries in our conditions, then obviously we will have safety viability issues.”

Although his startup is headquartered in Bengaluru, Akshay is visiting Pune on April 5 for the Alternate Fuel Conclave and EV exhibition. He believes that the Maharashtra government has been at the forefront of dealing with climate change. “The state government wants to start deploying interventions from Pune and we are working with the government. We will be involved in various activities and pilots in Pune.”

Akshay is not the only entrepreneur who is looking forward to Pune, a traditional automotive industry hub specially from the research and development perspective. Pune has the potential to emerge as the EV hub of India considering the 1,000 crore plus investments made and announced so far by major automotive players like Bajaj Auto Limited, Piaggio India, Mahindra & Mahindra, Bharat Forge and Kinetic Green Energy & Power Solution. Besides these large corporations, five startups from the city have cumulatively raised more than $17mn ( 129 crore) seed funds venture capitalists and angel investors.

EV hub

Hirdesh Thakur, executive director, EKA (a subsidiary of Pinnacle Industries Limited) is optimistic about the Pune EV-ecosystem. According to him, Pune is already an EV hub. “Lots of activities around EV ecosystem are happening in Pune region. We have the best testing agency available in the city, our commercial vehicle segment and car OEMs are already here, and we have abundant talent. This coupled with good government initiatives is working in favour of Pune as compared to Bengaluru and Delhi.”

Anurag Garg, managing director, Vitesco Technologies, India said, “Startups would like to utilise the ecosystem developed around existing OEMs. Apart from these traditional automotive hubs, new hubs would emerge due to the EV disruption.”

“Most EV startups are presently dependent on import substitutes for critical components. Hence, we do not have enough supply base for such components which are in immediate requirement. Once the sales volume starts coming in, which is not too far, there would be some supply-side challenges. From pan-India-perspective two-wheeler and three-wheeler EVs will be real trendsetters, followed by LCVs. According to a report, there would be around US $12 billion ( 1,200 crore plus) investment across the automotive value chain over the next five years. We need to complete the ecosystem for electrification with focus on infrastructure development. We need to pick a small town as a pilot, experiment and learn things. That will help us to implement this ecosystem faster,” he said.

Akshay said, “Pune can become an EV hub. All that government needs to do is have a ‘hands-off approach’. Let the ecosystem bloom and remove the bottlenecks for startups and give them an open hand. You don’t need to create any sort of new things.”

However, even an optimist like Hirdesh realises that there are larger issues and challenges, especially the regulatory compliances, which are proving to be hurdles for startups. “In terms of incubation support, it’s still a long way to go as a country. We also raised this issue with NITI Aayog team. Startups or any company still needs to qualify for more than 50 permissions, federal as well as state. The regulatory environment should become conducive for startups,” he said.

Paradigm shift

Anurag shared his observation that, in the past few years, EV showrooms and charging stations are now more visible across the city. This can be attributed to charging infrastructure startups like goEgoNetwork.

EV infrastructure is being developed right from residential, commercial to highway charging. With this robust infrastructure, EV adoption will also increase, believes Dheeman Kadam, co-founder of goEgoNetwork. He said, “There is lot of demand for charging-as-a-service or shared charging stations in residential societies in cities like Pune, Mumbai, etc. We already have 200 charging points across Pune and have planned for 500 in total. In Mumbai we have around 20 charging points. In India, 2,000 public charging stations are in place. This number is increasing almost 200 per cent month on month. In Maharashtra, because of conducive EV policy, there is lot of scope on highway front and making residential charging a reality,” Dheeman claims.

Speaking about opportunities for EV startups in Pune, Dheeman says, “Pune is already on track to become an EV hub. Most EV startups from Pune are in nascent stage and some have raised seed fund rounds. Lot of interest is also being shown by VCs and a lot needs to be done further.”

Hirdesh said, “As compared to Bengaluru, Pune does not have easy access to capital. Efforts in producing an indigenous product are also very less. Most entrepreneurs are trying to assemble the EVs and lack the inhouse engineering capabilities. However, considering the positive sentiments for EV in future, a lot of funding is expected and coming in.”

Indigenous solutions

A critical and most dirty component in an EV is the battery. Most of the startups and companies must import this component from China-based companies. Akshay, whose startup holds in-house competencies in everything from electrode materials to cell fabrication to battery packs, said, “Dependency on China is a big factor, but we also haven’t developed indigenous technologies. Whatever battery technologies have been developed in the world, they were never done keeping in mind the Indian conditions or kind of vehicles used here. We are late to the party anyways and the least Indian startups can do is strike the partnerships with battery tech companies and simultaneously begin with local development and indigenisation target for the next 5 to 10 years.”

Tork Motors, an electric motorcycle startup, delivered its first motorcycle on Thursday (March 31). Kapil Shelke, co-founder of Tork Motors said, “We also order a few components from China and Taiwan, but rest of tooling and aluminium castings are made in India. From startup founders’ perspective, access to capital is not a problem, especially post-covid it doesn’t matter where one is located.”

Commenting on battery-swapping solutions, Dr Akshay said, “Battery swapping is an interim solution. Three to four years back, if batteries would have charged fast, nobody would have gone for battery swapping. Battery swapping solves only one problem and that is of the charging time. Basic range of the EV is also limited due to swappable batteries. Safety risks remain with battery swapping solutions. Besides, it will put additional batteries in the market, which will cause more harm for the environment.”

Big guns

•Bajaj Auto Limited

oRs 300 crore for new EV plant in Akurdi

oProduction capacity of 5 lakh EVs per year

oFirst vehicle expected to roll out of this facility in June 2022

•Piaggio India

oState-of-the-art manufacturing plant at Baramati

oInvested around 300 crore on product and technology development for electric three-wheeler

oAnnual production capacity of 380,000 commercial vehicles and 150,000 two-wheelers

•Mahindra & Mahindra

oRs 200 crore for EV powertrain plant at Chakan

oCapacity to produce components for 50 thousand vehicles per annum

oPlans to sell 5 lakh EVs by 2025

•Kinetic Green Energy & Power Solutions

oPartner with China-based EV giant Aima Technology Group to co-design and develop electric two-wheelers for Indian market

oRs 500 crore investment plans for EV business

oCapacity to produce 1.5 lakh vehicles per annum

•Bharat Forge

oRs 30 crore for eventual stake of 45% in an EV startup Tork Motorcycles

oInvestment of £10m ( 100 crore) in UK-based electric commercial vehicle company Tevva Motors.

oAlso acquired exclusive design, technology and sales license for commercialization of Tevva technology for Indian market

•Pinnacle Industries

oRs 2000 crore to set up EV manufacturing units in Pune and Pithampur (Indore)

oAlready set up EV unit under EKA label, to roll out 1,000 buses in first year

o15-acre facility coming up at Chakan

•PMI Electro Mobility Solutions

oRs 500 crore along with its Chinese partner Beiqi Foton Motor Co (Foton) for setting up an electric bus manufacturing plant at Pune

oBagged orders to supply 700 electric busses to Uttar Pradesh

•Forsee Power

oEuropean multinational producer of smart lithium-ion electric vehicle (EV) battery systems

oEntered Indian market in 2020

oProducing EV batteries for two and three-wheeler EVs at Pune plant

Pune-based EV startups and funding

•Tork Motors

Tork Motors is offering T6X electric motorcycle powered by a lithium-ion battery capable of providing a range of 100km in a single charge and can be charged up to 80 per cent in an hour.

oFounded by Kapil Shelke in 2010

oTotal funding raised so far 70 crore, Ratan Tata is part of cap-table

oBharat Forge is building factory – 100 crore

oTork is aiming at retails of 5,000 units in the first year starting off from Pune city.

•BatteryPool

BatteryPool offers battery agnostic and software-enabled charging solutions for EV fleets and commercial vehicles.

oFounded by Ashwin Shankar in 2018

oRaised undisclosed amount of growth capital as part of its seed funding

oRound led by Indian Angel Network (IAN) and Pune-based Venture Center under the NIDHI-Seed Support Scheme

oPreviously raised grants from the Department of Science and Technology (GoI) and an angel round along with the 100X.VC investment.

•goEgo Network

ogoEgoNetwork is an electric vehicle charging solutions startup

oRaised $2 million in seed funding in August 2021

oRishi Bagla, chairman of Bagla Group, along with Olivier Guillaumond, head of Global Innovation Labs and Fintech at ING Bank in the Netherlands participated in the round

o200 charging points in Pune

•EMotorad

EMotorad, operated by Inkodop Technologies and clients in 58 countries, gives commuters an environment-friendly and economical way of commuting. EMotorad is also building a tracking and security app that will relay the data on the customer’s smartphone.

oFounded in 2017 by Kunal Gupta, Rajib Gangopadhyay, Sumedh Battewar and Aditya Oza

oRaised $3M seed funding round in October 2021 from Hong Kong based investor and Basant Lohia, Managing Director, TaraSafe International.

oLooking to raise US $25 million

oCurrently 9000+ e-bikes on road in India

•Nexzu Mobility

Nexzu Mobility’s Roadlark electric bicycle offers 100km mileage and a top speed of 25kmph.

oFounded in 2015 by Atulya Mittal and Vinod Mittal

oRaised $2M seed funding so far

oCargo variant of Roadlark e-cycle intended for e-commerce also available

Maharashtra EV Policy 2021

The primary objective of Maharashtra EV Policy 2021 is to accelerate adoption of battery electric vehicles (BEV) in the state so that they contribute to 10 per cent of new vehicle registrations by 2025. Other important policy objectives include:

•Create ‘State EV Fund’ to promote EV adoption, including providing incentives for EVs and EV infrastructure

•Achieve 25 per cent electrification of public transport and last-mile delivery vehicles in five targeted urban agglomerations (Greater Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik and Aurangabad) by 2025.

•Target establishment of at least one Gigafactory for the manufacturing of advanced chemistry cell (ACC) batteries in the state.

•Promote research and development (R&D), innovation, and skill development across the EV ecosystem in the state.

Magnetic Maharashtra

•Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) allotted 75-acre to London-based Causis E-Mobility’s electric vehicle (EV) plant in Talegaon, Pune.

•Causis has invested 2,800 crore in the 75-acres facility

•22 per cent of the entire automobile manufacturing sector in India is based in Maharashtra

•Investment of 1 lakh crore in EV manufacturing expected in four cities Pune, Mumbai, Aurangabad and Nashik within a decade

•Six cities (Greater Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and Vasai-Virar) from Maharashtra allocated grants under National Clean Air Programme (NCAP)

EV startups

•India – 996 (351 are DPIIT recognised)

•Maharashtra – 204 (76)

•Pune – 85 (30)

Source: Startup India Portal, Government of India

Bits n Bytes

Venture Center named as Stanley Black & Decker Makers Grant Recipient

Pune: Stanley Black & Decker announced recipients of its first “Empower Makers” Global Impact Challenge. Venture Center has been named as a Makers Grant Recipient for its efforts to set-up a Makers Hive at Venture Center as an open access DIY and training facility for budding inventors, entrepreneurs and other trainers with a focus on cutting, drilling and engraving wood, hybrid and sustainable materials.

Initiated in 2021, the Global Impact Challenge grant program will award up to $25 million in grant funding over the next five years to nonprofits that are supporting trade workforce development initiatives in the construction and manufacturing sectors. Venture Center was selected as one of 86 organizations that will help skill and reskill roughly 180,000 makers throughout 2022.

“We look forward to setting up and operating the Makers Hive at Venture Center as part of this grant. This will add new capabilities and momentum to our efforts in upskilling, nurturing and supporting hardware product developers and innovators.,” said Dr. Premnath, Director at Venture Center.

AgriVijay raises seed funding under Startup India Seed Fund Scheme

Pune: AgriVijay, a marketplace of renewable energy products, has raised seed funding from Indigram Labs under Startup India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS). AgriVijay was founded amidst Covid outbreak in June 2020 under the leadership of Vimal Panjwani and Shobha Chanchlani.

Founder Vimal Panjwani and Shobha Chanchlani said, “With this funding round and support by our incubators along with Atal Innovation Mission and NITI Aayog we will bring in Technology such as AI and ML with our revamped AI enabled website and Mobile App for better engagement with the Farmers & Rural households. We also will be utilising the funds to hire more qualified workforce to help us scale and grow to next level. We are still in touch with investors to complete this round as we have an ambitious goal to set up 3000+ renewable energy stores across rural India.”

“AgriVijay has generated more than US$ 1,00,000 of revenue since its inception and have opened 55+ Renewable Energy Stores,” they added.

Nurture.farm and Digisafe Insurance Brokers introduce KAVACH for farmers

Pune: Agritech startup nurture.farm and Digisafe insurance brokers announced their partnership on offering KAVACH - a weather-based cash guarantee program launched for nurture.farm farmers.

KAVACH offers farmers a cashback up to 500 per acre against unseasonal rainfall. Highly customised as per local weather data, the KAVACH will transfer payouts directly to a farmer’s bank account if rainfall breaches a pre-set limit. The farmers would not need to intimate for claims. Instead, the payouts will be automatically triggered based on the IMD weather data.

Dhruv Sawhney, Business Head and COO, nurture.farm said, “We are nudging a behavioural change in farmers by encouraging them towards embracing financial protection tools. The automatic payouts, which happen timely within a week of the rainfall breach, will be a gamechanger. We wish to extend this to 3,00,000 farmers this year.”

Suman Roy Choudhury, co-founder, Digisafe said, “With this partnership, we can extend risk mitigation to farmers who will highly benefit from such coverage. KAVACH will play a significant role in increasing insurance penetration in the agriculture sector, especially in rural areas, where it is staggeringly low.”

KPIT Sparkle announces winners of 2022 Innovation Challenge

Pune: KPIT announced the winners of KPIT Sparkle 2022, an annual national design and development innovation contest for Engineering, Science and Design students. Team Elespa which was a joint project of Dr D.Y. Patil Institute of Technology, Pune, Sandip University, Nasik; College of Engineering, Pune and Jayawantrao Sawant College of Engineering, Pune won the Platinum award of INR 10,00,000 for designing an advanced automated hybrid electric vehicle with a performance monitoring system which solves the problem of long battery charging times, range concerns, lack of charging stations and high initial cost.

Team Kissan Connect from S. G. Balekundri Institute of Technology, Belgaum won the Gold award of INR 5,00,000 for designing a multifunctional retrofit for EV tractors, which can integrate all the various attachments. Team Electrophene from Sri Krishna College of Engineering and Technology, Coimbatore, won the silver award of INR 2,50,000 for designing Hydrogen, Fossil fuel and Electric based three fuel systems for two wheelers.

Team Unanimous4 from Jayawantrao Sawant College of Engineering, Pune won the Abhinavi1 award and a cash prize of INR 2,00,000 for designing a multipurpose agricultural Electric Vehicle that can perform agricultural tasks using AR/VR, ML/AI, IoT technologies. Team Dravya from Pimpri Chinchwad College of Engineering, Pune won the Abhinavi2 award and a cash prize of INR 1,00,000 for designing a battery cooling system that uses dielectric fluid to reduce battery temperature instead of forced air cooling and indirect liquid cooling.

Mahika announces online skill development courses for women

Pune: Mahika announced online skill development and job opportunities exclusively for women in the white-collar job sector. All women with minimum 10+2 education can enroll on their website for free.

“Industry is struggling to get the right talent. While women are ahead of men in education, only 30-35 per cent women enter the job sector. India churns out around 60 lakh graduates every year, but more than half of them are unemployable,” quotes Hiren Kulkarni, Founder and CEO of Mahika.

Mahika provides easy access to skill-based online learning and career guidance at no cost, thereby creating opportunities to become preferred candidates at job interviews. The start-up is backed by notable board of advisors like Padma Vibhushan Dr. R. A. Mashelkar, Former Director General - CSIR, Usha Thorat, Former Deputy Governor – RBI, G. Padmanabhan, Former ED – RBI & Former Chairman – BOI and Sandeep Tandon, Investor & MD – Tandon Group. Currently, the startup is focusing on Tier 1 & Tier 2 cities in Maharashtra with a plan to cover all major cities and towns across India. Although education is free for women, the startup will derive its revenue from companies post placements.

FloBiz launches Smart Collect on myBillBook

Pune: Neobank FloBiz announced its foray into banking services for SMBs with the launch of Smart Collect - part of the Smart Banking module - on its flagship GST invoicing and accounting product myBillBook. With Smart Collect, businesses can now collect payments from their customers instantaneously via UPI and bank transfers and automatically reconcile them against pending invoices.

myBillBook also launched its Point-of-Sale (POS) invoicing interface in December last year for organised retail and franchise businesses, thereby making Smart Collect a powerful payments solution for both non-retail and retail SMBs on myBillBook.

Rahul Raj, co-founder and CEO of FloBiz, said, “In January 2022, the total monthly trade recorded by the 1M+ active SMBs on myBillBook stood at $1.5B and continues to grow steadily. The broader Smart Banking module will allow SMBs to collect payments from customers and make outward transactions towards suppliers, vendors and day-to-day business expenses. It will also bring Current Account management capabilities directly on myBillBook, making it a one-stop solution for all invoicing, accounting, inventory management, business reporting and banking needs for businesses.”

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