India's Yulu nears zero-import dependence with Bajaj partnership

Prasanth Aby Thomas, DIGITIMES, Bangalore 0

Amit Gupta, co-founder and CEO, Yulu. Credit: Yulu

As electric vehicles (EVs) make inroads into the Indian market, numerous startups have emerged to offer solutions, enjoying varying degrees of success. EV two-wheelers, in particular, have been well-received, although recent changes to subsidies have raised concerns.

Yulu, one of the startups, has distinguished itself in this evolving landscape. Digitimes Asia had interviewed the company in 2022 as the market began recovering from the pandemic. Almost a year on, Yulu continues to consolidate its presence across the country.

"Import dependence was a concern for us. However, with our new fleet from Bajaj, it's almost nil on the scooter side," said Amit Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Yulu. "As for Yuma, we still import cells, but we anticipate commencing production of advanced cell chemistry cells in India within a year or two. Despite some challenges, recent policy shifts have generally been neutral or even beneficial for us."

The EV market grapples with uncertainties revolving around subsidies and a handful of companies falling short on regulatory compliance. However, Yulu remains insulated from these issues as they operate within a category that isn't subsidy-dependent.

Developing a niche in the Indian market

Gupta highlighted that many things have evolved since Digitimes's last interview. A significant development was the investment of $77 million in Yulu by mobility technology company Magna.

"We've transitioned from a single entity into two: Yulu and Yuma," Gupta said. "Over the past six months, we've appointed all the senior leadership roles in Yuma. This entity is now fully prepared to embrace a new growth trajectory by engaging more OEMs. We've rolled out a comprehensive battery-as-a-service network and tripled our fleet size from around 7,000 to 8,000 bikes, thereby expanding our revenue, customer base, and monthly active users. Our bikes, primarily used by gig workers, are now available in two models: the Yulu Miracle for daily commuters and the Yulu EX for delivery workers."

The company also launched its third generation of bikes, manufactured in India by Bajaj, and secured over $80 million in equity funding. Moreover, Yulu has expanded its presence in Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai and is gearing up to enter new markets.

Market outlook

Gupta explained that the company's optimism for the electric mobility market, which they have strongly supported since its early stages in 2018, remains undiminished. The shift towards electric mobility will be primarily driven by the two-wheeler market.

"The commercialization of electric mobility, where fleet owners see a return on investment, will be a significant factor. Our decision to embrace electric mobility is not merely due to our country's signed agreements - it makes sound business sense," said Gupta. "We firmly believe that electrification of mobility is here to stay and will only expand, fueled by national agendas, geopolitical reasons, and the declining availability of petroleum resources. We remain exceedingly bullish on electric vehicles, considering all the global developments, including those in India."

Strength in IoT solutions

One area where Yulu has been concentrating its efforts is in IoT. The company's partnership with Bajaj certainly brings some strengths but to elevate the vehicle into the realm of intelligent transportation, Yulu has integrated IoT, telematics, a network of complex sensors, a wealth of cloud-based data, and a suite of algorithms, including AI.

"This innovation is what makes our business model so intriguing," Gupta said. "Yulu has developed and owned this IP from day one. It's not enough just to source a scooter from an OEM. For us, the key lies in integrating a digital brain and heart into the vehicle. This might sound like a bold claim, but the sophistication of our technology, connectivity features, and embedded intelligence in Yulu's offerings is comparable to something like Tesla's tech stack."

Mobility in India is indeed a challenge. However, as the country forges ahead with its EV plans, companies like Yulu will play a crucial role in offering alternatives to traditional modes of transport. This is inevitable for India as the country aims for rapid growth, notwithstanding its aging infrastructure.