How newcomer River plans to fill a gap in India’s competitive EV two-wheeler market – TechCrunch

Two-wheelers have been an integral part of Indian life for centuries. Their smaller size and affordability make them an affordable choice to navigate the city's traffic jammed streets.
River, a startup, has just emerged with an electric scooter and associated subscription services. This is a modern-day vehicle that can be used for both work and play.

River was founded by Vipin George and Aravind Mani in 2020. It has since grown to 42 employees. The team of small- and medium-sized engineers from Vespa, Arai and Bosch, Honda, Ultraviolette, Honda and Bosch has created a prototype vehicle which will be revealed to the public later in the year.

Both founders have extensive experience in two-wheeled transportation. Mani, an engineer, worked previously in the petrochemicals sector before moving to electrified transport. He was then vice president of business strategy at Ultraviolette, before he started River. George was the design lead at Ultraviolette for eight years at Honda R&D India.

The couple wanted a sturdy two-wheeler that could be used for work and other tasks, but also one that was fun and practical enough to use for leisure and other activities.

Mani stated that there is a parallel to the American truck culture. If you are a carpenter or shop-owner, you own a truck. This truck can be used to transport stuff and it also serves as your primary mode for getting around. There is nothing similar in India for two-wheelers, and we want to make it so.

Mani also noted that the vehicle must have personality as it is an Indian status purchase that you want your friends to see. It is a symbol of success for many who own a two-wheeler.

They created a multi-utility, two-wheeled electric scooter codenamed RX-1. It is available in a variety of battery packs that can travel 100 km (62 miles) to 180 km (112 miles), on one charge.

It can go from zero to 40 km/h (25 mph) in just 4 seconds, and it has a top speed 80 km/h (50 mph). It is primarily a multi-utility vehicle and has a payload weight of 200 kg, sufficient to allow a rider or driver to transport packages.

Prices vary depending on the battery pack and can range from 80,000 INR ($1,070 to 100,000 INR ($1,337).

Rivers launches at a moment when India is both competitive and fruitful.

India's government is keen to encourage EV adoption in order to reduce the use of polluting diesel and gas-powered vehicles. They have increased subsidies for two-wheelers that are made in India. India's Department of Heavy Industries offers incentives worth Rs 15,000 ($200 per kilowatt hour). Also, the subsidy cap has been increased to 40% of vehicle price.

E-commerce and delivery companies like Flipkart and Swiggy are also trying to electrify their fleets. Zomato will have EV-only fleets before the end of this decade. Startup Swiggy announced that it will cover 800,000 km (497,000 miles per day) by electric vehicles every day by 2025. Flipkart, a Walmart subsidiary, announced in February that it would have more than 25,000 electric vehicles within its supply chain by 2030.

Co-founder Aravind Mani stated that 60% to 70% of India is self-employed and that two-wheelers are an essential part of Indian life. He also said that e-commerce has fueled growth, with India boasting an estimated 14,000,000 fleet delivery riders. This trend has been accelerated by COVID, and the demand for on-demand services is continuously growing.

These opportunities have sparked hundreds of EV startup launches. According to a March 2021 research note by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co., there are more than 470 EV businesses registered in India.

According to Venugopal Garre, managing director and senior analyst, the gold rush has begun to seize this opportunity. We believe that a few companies will be acquired and some will go out of business. However, we expect that a few will grow significantly.

River will be competing against larger and more well-funded competitors such as Ola Electric, Bounce, and Aether Energy. There are also dozens of smaller companies. Rivers' co-founders claim that their new vehicle and business model fills an important gap in the market.

River intends to sell directly to customers and offer a range of subscription services. Owners can also customize their scooters and take them out when they need to. The second half of 2022 will see sales.

The company will offer subscriptions that include charging, battery packs with varying sizes, maintenance, and connectivity options. River will not take on the expensive task of creating charging infrastructure. Instead, the company will operate a charging franchise. Mani stated that the company has a set of small businesses who might purchase the cars and chargers, and then open the chargers up for public use.

River would like to sell its scooters directly both to restaurants and fleet operators, as well as to larger ecommerce companies that are able to sell to consumers.

Mani said that the startup will manufacture the scooters in small-scale manufacturing facilities that can produce around 3,000 units per month. River hopes to establish a few of these facilities across India if it is successful. Mani stated that River has already reached agreements with several suppliers for co-development and assembly its battery packs.