Giving a new electrified charge to old vehicles is the simplest way to describe Telangana-based start-up e-Trio, a retrofitment company which begin its journey in 2017.
Founded by Sathya Yalamanchili and Deepak MV, CEO, the start-up is credited with India’s first retrofitted passenger vehicle (Maruti Alto) in 2018, and the third company, after Mahindra and Tata Motors, to have a certified electric passenger car on the road.
The company then began exploring intra-city logistics certification, which led to the introduction of the first retrofitted electric SCV — a converted Tata Ace. But what started off as a plan to give a new lease of life to passenger cars, targeting personal buyers as well as the taxi segment, is now taking a turn in a different direction.
Speaking to Autocar Professional before the launch of their eLCV, Deepak says, “The commercialisation of the retrofitted e-SCV started from late-2019 via e-Trio Logistics, a logistics leasing sister concern of e-Trio Automobiles. The logistics company was purchasing vehicles from e-Trio and leasing them out to various e-commerce logistics players. We have added over 10 B2B clients including e-commerce giants like Amazon, Flipkart, Big Basket, IKEA and logistics players like Delhivery, Lets Transport, GATI and Brring among others.”
He adds that in FY2020, the company forayed into intra-city logistics with a product portfolio comprising two-, three- and four-wheelers ranging from a payload of 70kg to 700kg. e-Trio commenced first-time operations in over five cities with more than 30 retrofitted e-SCVs. Subsequently, the business model for e-SCVs transitioned from leasing to sales with the first retrofitted e-SCV sale to an independent client. It also successfully got the first approval from Hyderabad, and is working on getting approvals for its products from Bangalore and Delhi.
In FY2020, the company retrofitted almost 60 vehicles, which includes Maruti Suzuki Alto (3 units), Wagon R (5), Dzire (7) and Tata Ace (42 units). This is despite the challenging conditions, especially in the last quarter of FY2020, where certain parts imports from China were affected. This led to the company looking at de-risking and expanding its reach.
What’s more, e-Trio has already developed prototypes of an e-rickshaw, e-cart, L5 passenger and cargo variants.
Deepak reveals that the customer profile they are targeting, “Our target segment remains the B2B e-commerce logistics players and hence the focus on e-three-wheelers and e-bicycles will be the intra-city logistics segment in the first phase. By end-FY2021, we plan to launch new electric three- wheelers in the passenger segment and establish a comprehensive dealer network to cater to the B2C market as well. We are also working towards 100 percent localisation; most of the supply chain is already localised. In FY2022, we have plans to expand our capacity and capability for three-wheelers and build prototypes for new electric two- and four-wheelers.”
He is optimistic that e-Trio will evolve as an EV OEM, and is betting on e-Trio’s data-centric approach to technology, operations and business, which helps “leverage the right balance of end-to-end ecosystem needed to drive the exponential adoption of electric vehicles in India.”
The business model for e-Trio is transitioning from a total leasing model to a hybrid model comprising a combination of sales and leasing. The focus of operations is in five cities for 2020 (Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune) by deploying company-owned service stations.
This will be followed up with a completely new electric three-wheeler. The initial primary target is to cater to the demand of existing B2B clients in the L5 cargo category across select cities. Deepak says, “Once the cargo segment sales stabilises, we plan to set up three-wheeler dealerships to drive passenger segment sales in select states. Lastly, electric bicycles the demand is coming from two segment — cargo and personal. The primary target has been food delivery boys. Zomato and Swiggy are playing a pivotal role in enabling the same. We will be soon launching the personal variant to cater to individual customers through various online and offline channels.”
e-Trio plans to go global too. Deepak reveals that in FY2021 the company will look at establishing a distribution network for sale of its new electric three-wheelers and e-bicycles in overseas market including South-East Asia, Middle East and Africa among others.
In terms of capacity, the company has scaled up both in terms of manpower as well as output per week. At present, while the market is still nascent, Deepak says e-Trio has installed capacity to produce over 500 units a month, spread across the three-wheeler and four-wheeler product segments. It aims to scale up further.
In a recent development, Kevin O'Leary aka Mr Wonderful of the American reality show, Shark Tank released a video message highlighting the work e-Trio is doing in India. Deepak says this has helped in creating better brand awareness, “Many prospective investors have contacted us over the past year and we continue to engage with them. Mr Wonderful’s statement reinforces the potential of e-Trio as an organisation for all stakeholders.”
In the last week of July 2020, the National Green Tribunal conveyed a strong message to the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways as regards the delay in detailing the guidelines of the Vehicle Scrappage Policy. This is another business area where e-Trio looks to further bolster its game. Deepak agrees: “It is a huge potential business (retrofitting end-of-life vehicles) as this can translate into a new lease of life for many people.” The young start-up is eyeing big gains, and it is going to be an electrified journey.
(This issue was first published in the August 1 issue - South India Special)
e-Trio launches first certified retrofitted electric LCV at Rs 775,000