A Bolt From The Blue
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Had Satyajeet Mohanty’s smartphone not ran out of battery while on a bike trip, he might have never thought of creating a smartphone charger for bikes.
With bikes being a predominant commuting mode in developing countries like India, Mohanty, Co-founder & CEO of Hyderabad-based Bolt Auto Technologies, might have just cracked a billion-dollar market opportunity.
He along with Ronak Kumar Samantray, the co-inventor of the idea and chief advisor, shares their craziness with Entrepreneur.
“Aha” moment- Satyajeet Mohanty (SM):
While I was working as a finance executive at NowFloats (enabling online presence for SMEs), our field sales people driving bikes had to grapple with low battery issues with their smartphones.
I too had experienced similar problem during a bike trip, which I later discussed casually with Kumar Samantray (Co-founder, NowFloats) and wished of having a smartphone charger which I could use while riding.
So I quit NowFloats and along with Ronak started working on creating a smartphone charger for bikes in July 2014. Samantray, however, continues to lead NowFloats simultaneously. The product went through 10-15 iterations during 3D printing or manufacturing till July 2015 when we launched it.
Charged up – Ronak Kumar Samantray (RS):
Called Bolt Red Streak, it is a compact detachable charger from the bracket (to be fastened on the bike’s handle through screws) to prevent misuse or theft. The bracket has wires that need one-time installation on the bike’s battery.
The phone is connected through the USB cable to the charger while being secured in a pouch called “Bolt Pocket” on the fuel tank. The pocket has straps that fix it across the fuel tank. The user can also use the phone from within the pocket as it has a transparent screen.
The charger will only draw power from battery when the phone is connected to it which makes it quite power efficient. Both charger and pocket are water resistant. Also, there is a Bolt Riders app that fulfils our larger motive of enhancing the riding experience.
The app, which runs offline on Android or iOS platforms, tracks the bike’s average speed, real time location, total distance covered, pit stops, etc.in the background and creates a riding profile of the user which can be shared on social networking sites.
Made in India – (RS):
We thought that since we would be a manufacturing company and given that Make in India had also been gaining ground, we would tap into. When we went to different banks for collateral free loan, we found that they were only good to invest in non-risky traditional manufacturing businesses and not in the new-age technology manufacturing start-ups as they didn’t understand our model.
Opportunity – (SM):
In India every year 1.2 million new hi-end bikes are sold and our target is to get at least 2-3 percent market share by next fiscal year end. If we take into account commuter bikes, it is a very big market. We don’t recommend Bolt for scooters as it is not designed for them. Bikes have comparatively thinner handle than scooters.
(This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (February 2016 Issue).