For the most part, India's EV journey started with two and three-wheelers. Within the two-wheeler category, scooters have remained the popular choice. This could be because EVs have remained an urban mobility option in India till now.
But more and more customers are looking for EV two-wheelers that can provide speed and experience at par with their ICE counterparts, according to Odysse Electric Vehicles, an Indian EV two-wheeler startup. Speaking to Digitimes Asia recently, Nemin Vora, CEO of Odysse, pointed out that high-speed versions are slowly replacing the low-speed scooters in the market.
"When we started in 2020, we launched our first three products were high-speed scooters and not low-speed," Vora said. "We didn't have a low-speed version in our portfolio when we launched our products. And that has been one of our core strengths. We have been pushing high-speed scooters for the past two years and not focusing on low-speed under the street scooters category."
When the company began offering its products, very few companies focused on the high-speed category. This focus helped Odysse have an edge in the market as a startup.
Growth to depend on high speed with subsidy
Vora pointed out that as the market matures, a focus on high-speed vehicles along with government subsidies will be some of the key factors driving growth. The Indian government has already come up with several initiatives that could significantly lower the price for consumers and encourage EV adoption.
"Heading forward, high speed is only going to be the product that customer wants, and they, along with subsidies, will drive market growth," Vora said. "Over the last year, we have been working to ensure that we become eligible for subsidies. We have developed our own vendor network, got our product locally developed, and are submitting for subsidy. By November, we expect to become eligible for the subsidies. Once we get that, it will be a game-changer. The FAME 2 subsidy can help customers save as much as INR 30,000. On top of that, there are state subsidies as well."
Open to partnership opportunities
The company works with several local and international partners. India's low-speed EV scooter industry is heavily dependent on China for components, but Vora says it's different in the high-speed category.
"For our high-speed products, we are planning to source everything locally," Vora said. "We have certain proprietary components developed locally, and moving forward, we would try to ensure that we deal with Indian companies. But in terms of technological partnerships or JVs, we are open to international companies that would also help us grow and give us an edge."
Asked about the areas where global companies can partner with Odysse, Vora said that joint ventures that may help them expand to more areas in the EV sector would be welcome. They are also open to becoming design, sales, and distribution partners for international companies that would like to sell their products in the country.
Market penetration against larger players
Most of the early Indian EV companies were startups. But now, large ICE automobile makers have also entered the market. Hero Motorcorp, India's leading two-wheeler manufacturer, launched its first EV scooter this month. Market observers have raised concerns about how startups will compete against such large companies with deep pockets. But Vora explained that certain unique characteristics would help them stand out.
"There are a couple of advantages that help us," Vora said. "One is our product. Second, we are the only company today that offers a complete range of products. We have low-speed scooters, high-speed scooters, sports motorcycles, and delivery scooters targeting the B2B segment. We are also launching a daily commuter motorcycle in 2023. Other large companies have only one or two offerings because their major revenue source is ICE vehicles."
Other USPs that Vora sees are the optimized price and network of dealers. Although some EV startups have experimented with the direct-to-customer model, Vora feels that having a physical store is essential to growth.
Steady growth as infrastructure develops
India may see more EV adoption as the ecosystem develops. Market penetration has been relatively easy for two-wheelers because most customers use them within city limits and charge at their homes. But to make EV four-wheelers popular, public charging points are a must.
Several initiatives to build public charging points are already on the way. But the process is slow and challenging, and Vora feels it would take another three years to see wider adoption of EVs in India.