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Sulajja Firodia Motwani

Founder & CEO

Kinetic Green Energy and Power Solutions

1 Rating

E-MOBILITY With swappable battery, one has unlimited range, removing range anxiety

May 25, 2020

....says Sulajja Firodia Motwani, Founder & CEO, Kinetic Green Energy and Power Solutions, which is the latest venture from the Kinetic & Firodia Group that offers a wide range of battery-operated vehicles such as e-autos, e-carts and buggies and continues to lead the way as an innovative and progressive company, in this tête-à-tête with Juili Eklahare. In this conversation, she explains the effectiveness of battery swapping, how the company has expanded its portfolio from one e-rickshaw to a range of them and its long-term goals. Excerpts...

Can you please brief us about your journey in the automotive sector so far?

I am the third generation entrepreneur in my family. I went to the US to study, but in my heart, I always wanted to come back and be a part of the business. I came back after getting my degree and working there for a while. So, I have been involved in the automotive business in the country for the past 23 years, where I have worked in all the areas, from sales to finance.

Can you tell us more about the current operations, the key business segments and business model of Kinetic Green?

We would like to work on the small vehicles – 80-90% of Indians use two-wheelers or three-wheelers. Since these vehicles are intracity vehicles, the amount of battery required on them is also limited. So, electric vehicles become very much affordable at the moment as the battery size is reduced. Kinetic has always appealed to the middle-class Indian, being a mass-product brand. So, we have been using our strength & brand and applying it in this segment.

Golf-carts are also a segment you are working towards in terms of EVs, as a joint venture with Lamborghini. How big is the market for this segment in India?

Interestingly, we will be manufacturing the golf-cart vehicles in India, which will give us a fairly attractive manufacturing cost and export them around the world. In India, the market for golf-carts will soon become about 4000-5000 golf-carts produced a year in the next five to seven years.

In FY 2021, Kinetic Green is targeting a ₹300-400 crore turnover and a sales target of 23,000 e-three wheelers. What is your action plan for this?

I chair the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and also Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles’ (SMEV) electric three-wheeler’s committee. Also, in 2019, we had a new model called ‘Safar Smart’ – a next generation vehicle that we have launched – which has more than 90-95% local components only. Besides this, we have expanded our portfolio from one e-rickshaw to a range of them, including cargo vehicles. So, based on all this, we are confident of achieving these numbers.

Localisation of auto components is something that's quite talked about, which your company has achieved. What are the activities undertaken by your company that helped achieve this?

We are now giving clear warranty to our customers on our electric three-wheelers. So, we also need a supply chain that will back it up because critical components need back-to-back warranty. Besides this, we began working on the possible partnerships and approached reputed automotive supply chain companies for most of our mechanical parts, giving them our specifications from our product design. For some of the proprietary components, like the gearbox or controllers, we have tried to develop the technology within our group companies itself.

Kinetic Green & Bharat Petroleum Corporation have signed an agreement for the launch of ‘e-Drive’, an electric vehicle mobility solution based on swappable battery technology. How will this solution help in intracity vehicles? How do you think it will revolutionise the EV industry in India?

Within a range of about 100 km, the cost of an electric three-wheeler is higher than that of a CNG auto. That’s because in the latter, one is not buying the fuel along with it. But if one buys an electric three-wheeler with a battery, one is buying the fuel upfront. Plus, there’s the dilemma of range anxiety. So, battery swapping is a very effective way of addressing these issues – the moment one removes the battery from the electric three-wheeler, the cost of the vehicle comes down by 50%. Coupled with government subsidies, it can come down below ₹1 lakh, so more people can afford it. Also, with swappable battery, one has unlimited range, removing range anxiety. Thus, in this partnership, Bharat Petroleum Corporation will put up the battery swapping stations at their petrol stations and we will provide the vehicle to the driver. We’re starting with Kochi metro. This will be a revolutionary concept because it makes electric three-wheelers mainstream.

Your three focus areas at the moment are retail, institutions and government. Can you tell us the work you are doing in each of these areas and the separate challenges each of them bring?

In terms of our EVs, when retail customers were not coming forward because they didn’t want to take the risk or loans were not available, we did a lot of interesting work with government departments to popularise electric vehicles. For instance, we worked with the UP government and provided 8000 e-rickshaws to cycle-rickshaw pullers. The challenges in retail include creating the network from scratch, getting approvals in local RTOs and banks not coming forward to give loans. In institutions, we are currently doing a scheme in Andhra Pradesh, where we are providing 8000 electric three-wheelers for waste collection. In the institution market, we have to create opportunities, go with the stakeholders and convince them how this vehicle will be a different solution. And the challenge here is creating the demand by showing the customer the cost & sustainability advantage. With the government, we have to talk to the chief ministers of the states, various stakeholders, etc, telling them how they can bring EVs on the street. Here, there are issues like government buying being very complicated, sometimes there being the issues of collections & payments, etc.

What are your company's long-term goals?

We would like to be India’s number one electric three-wheeler company and make a major mark in the golf-cart market globally. We would also like to enter the electric-two wheeler sector and find our place in it. Plus, we look to work with a lot of passion and develop an innovative set of products and technology that would give us an edge in the market.

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  • Sulajja Firodia Motwani is an industry nominee on the Development Council for Electrical Mobility of India from the Ministry of Heavy Industries. The World Economic Forum selected her as a ‘Young Global Leader’ & she was voted among the top 25 business leaders of the next century in a poll of industrialists conducted by Fortune India.

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