The Man behind the Tesla of India
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Tarun Mehta, Co-founder, Ather Energy
Bangalore-based electric scooter startup Ather Energy believes that the future of mobility is electric and connected. Founded by two IITians, the startup has designed India’s first line of truly Made in India electric scooters - the Ather 450X & 450.
Hailing from Jodhpur, Rajasthan, Tarun Mehta grew up in Ahmedabad and did his graduation from Chennai. Tarun was always interested in building stuff so mechanical engineering was a natural choice for him and he went to study engineering design at IIT Madras. In Tarun’s words, “I like building instead of coding.” In college, he was part of groups involved in prototype building, and his co-founder, Swapnil, was part of one such club. “ Since I was part of an entrepreneurship club, we even built a racing car,” remembers Mehta. For Tarun starting up was far easier - as an entrepreneur one has to learn everything from strategy to stakeholder management to planning. Talking about a tech founder’s struggles while finding the right investors, Tarun says, “We wanted to invest a lot in technology upfront. That’s not easy for a lot of people to be aligned with. So the strategy is to identify one or two people who like what you are doing and they will invest.”
Talking about zeroing in on the right idea, he says, “Electric doesn’t mean some new invention. It just needs a good product. We believed all the technology is there. Putting them together will make sense because that’s missing. That gave us confidence that if the technology is missing in a product, you are at a good starting position. To us, it seemed the future is better technology. How long will we stick to petrol? Electric from every parameter is a better product.”
Having raised investment from Hero Motocorp, he got sound advice from the OEM on the value of testing. Tarun says, “They understand how much testing it takes for a product to be usable on the road. We could have launched very early but with no background in building vehicles. They made us understand the value of testing. They pushed us to spend more time in testing than we would have otherwise.”
The second important piece of advice he got was from Sachin Bansal who has always been a big believer in customer experience. Tarun says, “We were confused at one point whether we should build a product with lesser features so we can sell to more markets. He made us understand that what matters is if customers love your product or not. That advice changed our direction. We would have dropped costs by dropping features. Him hammering that point was important so gradually drop what you don’t need rather than doing it otherwise.”
Currently present in Chennai, Ather will soon be expanding to eight more cities.
Founded in: 2013
No. of employees: 800
2014: Flipkart Founders (Sachin & Binny Bansal) - $1 Million
2015: Tiger Global- $12 Mn
2016: Hero Motocorp- $32 Mn
2019: Sachin Bansal & Hero Motocorp $51 Mn
2020: $35 Mn led by Sachin Bansal
Patent applications: 51 | Granted: 1
Trademarks: 113 | Granted: 88
Design applications: 123 | Granted: 81
International Patents: 11
(This article was first published in the June 2020 issue of Entrepreneur Magazine. To subscribe, click here)