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India’s first crowdfunded Electric Bike (bicycle) Spero has recently launched by the Coimbatore-based textile machinery manufacturer S Manikandan. For the project, the entrepreneur has raised INR 38.7 lakh in the first round led byBengaluru-based Crowdfunding platform FuelADream. Launched on the same crowdfunding platform fueladream.com the bike is available in three models as E-30, E-60 and E-100 according to its feature of single charge capacity. In a quick chat with Entrepreneur India, S Manikandan, Founder, Spero E-Bike and MD of Milltex Engineers (P) Ltd. explains about his Crowdfunded project, future plans and what inspired him to launch E-bike.
What inspired you to come up with the idea of launching India’s first electric bike?
From the days of school, I had the aspiration of developing a green product. In 2014 we started thinking that we needed to go outside of our core domain of manufacturing machines. Also, the mobility was a classic age of an opportunity and electric mobility per say we have been monitoring since the days of Reva and hence we were excited by the way Tesla took up the whole market by storm.
Also, the source of inspiration came from the western culture where electric mobility has not gone down since 1940s. It has been there in smaller pockets but we saw the emergence in the last 10 years.
Why did you choose the crowdfunding way to fund your project?
We found FuelADream to be an innovative way to position the product. It gives us the immediate access to the potential consumers from day one. The social media has tremendous potential to reach the world. So we thought it’s an opportunity that we should be looking at.
At crowdfunding we don’t have to worry about the market, the market comes to you then you produce and sell them. You don’t have to worry about your working capital to don’t have to produce and stock.
What is the amount that you have raised through Crowdfunding?
For this project, we have approximately raised INR 39 lakhs in the first round of funding and in the second round which is continuing we have raised INR 13.5 lakh which can now go up to INR 20-30-40 lakh. In the second round of funding, we have reached 55 per cent of the fund needed. People have funded from Rs 100 and maximum has no limit. The second is still live and people can also buy the bike.
Apart from this, I have invested around Rs 1 cr of my own through internal accruals and the contingencies we had from previous years. Hence the total capital has been used for the manufacturing process, R&D, travel, and expenses.
We have realised that we are India’s first electric bike which is crowdfunded and it is the largest in terms of product value. Consumers and backers supporting the product until the price of Rs 47,800 and waiting patiently for about 75-90 days to actually own the product.
Going forward how many rounds of funding you will go through?
It’s left to our backers the way they have supported us till now if they continue we are there.
By funding, what is the benefit that Crowdfunders gets?
People fund my project out of the pleasure to make my dream come true. Second, people actually pre-order the bike at a very low price so with which we are able to reduce the price for crowdfunders.
Apart from the Fueladream.com will the bikes be available on the other online and offline stores?
Initially, the bike will only be available on Fueladream.com. The electric bike is a small segment in India. The bike can be used as electric cycle and can be peddled too. It is very interesting to use other eCommerce sites. But when you go on to other eCommerce platforms you will have to produce stock and supply the demand and this is something that we are not comfortable with at the moment.
Are you the only founding member of the company?
Right now I am the only person as a founder. My wife is part of the organization and I have brought on onboard a close friend of mine to implement my vision. If I get down to implementing the vision of myself then I probably will lose the overall holistic picture. My wife does the whole gamut of filling the blanks that I leave.
Actually, I am a textile machinery manufacturer so we use to be in the industrial cycle. We have got about 100 odd customers in India, Bangladesh, and Africa.
According to you which will be the convincing factors that will drive the electric bikes market in India?
We see that there is tremendous opportunity in India. Whole Indians have elevated from middle to upper middle class. The aspirations of the common people are tremendously growing high.
Cycling is there in India for longtime. It is just that in between there was a time when people moved to the convenience of distance like scooter and motorcycles and now that can be handled by electrifying it. From the business perspective, there are very few companies operating in the space. We are looking at almost 200 mn Indians as powerful consumers.
What are your future expansion plans?
With the electric bike, the learning has been tremendous and we would like to translate it into other products. We are planning to develop more electric mobility products in few months. There are statutory approvals pending from the govt side, as and when we will get the approvals we will move on to the next stage.
We think we are in the right place to even own the market. So we are preparing ourselves for the volume growth of 1000 bikes as a simple target. In three years I see at least 25 companies manufacturing electric bikes in India and market will be huge.
What is your revenue target?
The revenue target I will probably review in the month of November-December for the next few years. In terms of milestones, we have started talking till 2025. We are trying to understand the overall map. In a year down the line may be, it will be the break-even depended upon how much more money I need for developing new products.