It's World Bicycle Day today, one which celebrates the simplicity and sustainability of this enjoyable means of transportation. In a time of social distancing brought about in a Covid-ravaged world, bicycling is finding a new wave of followers, pedal power aficonadoes from the past and plenty of millennials too.
Among the many start-ups looking to make a mark in India in this segment of wheels is the Goa-based BLive, an EV Experience platform, founded by Sandeep Mukherjee (COO) and Samarth Kholkar (CEO) with an aim to popularise and provide first-hand experience of EVs.
“We started with electric bicycle tours in 2018, keeping in mind the fact that leisure travel is the best option to give an experience of electric vehicles. We combined it with a curated, immersive local tour, which was akin to a three-hour demo that the customer was getting. The tour was a combination of easy riding, discovering the unseen and with a lot of fun elements around food, music and nature."
Mukherjee adds, "We are now in 15 locations across nine states and are a top-ranking activity in every location we operate in. In late 2020, we launched India’s first EV marketplace, which was a one-stop shop for all two-wheeled EVs. On the store, we offer choice of brands, EV expertise to guide the customer through the entire process and multiple options of ownership (loans, EMIs, exchange or lease)."
BLive’s Sandeep Mukherjee (COO) and Samarth Kholkar(CEO): “We aim to raise our Series A funding by end-2021. We want
to have at least 10 retail stores up and running by then.”
The start-up has a fleet of over 200 e-bikes across 15 locations for its tours. Mukherjee says as e-bikes don’t need a license to ride, it is easy for people of all ages to try it out.
Covid-19 drives demand for personal mobility
It is no secret that the Covid-19-driven pandemic has impacted the very basic foundation of our daily lives and resulted in a revamp of our mobility choices. While on one hand, the demand for shared mobility took a massive blow, the interest for affordable personal mobility has grown significantly.
“During the lockdown, we realised the need to bridge the gap between the rising demand for personal affordable mobility and the lack of access and ease to purchase an EV. We researched extensively to find the best e-bicycles brands prior to the launch."
The company has also raised around $1 million (Rs 7.4 crore) from investors including Shivanand Salgaocar, chairman and MD, Vimson Group and Shrinivas Dempo, chairman, Dempo Group. The start-up has raised funds from DNA Entertainment Networks, Mumbai Angels, LetsVenture and JITO. These funds are being utilised towards expansion to new locations for e-bike tours and further improving the digital e-store experience.
One of the crucial aspects for the start-up is to create a clear differentiation for itself if it wants to change the status-quo in the market. BLive believes that having a personalised suggestion from its team of experts is something that motivates the customers to go forward with their purchase decision.
Early in 2021, the start-up launched its digital EV Store and has been able to deliver EVs to customers across over 30 cities. The company claims it has sold almost 200 units till date, mostly through its organic outreach and with a high focus on the locations where it operates its e-bike tours. "The interesting aspect is the interest seen in most Tier 2 and 3 cities for the products and we are seeing a lot of enquiries and conversions from these locations,” says Mukherjee.
Expanding into EVs, multi-brand franchise stores
Buying a vehicle in India is considered to be a very important milestone for a majority of the population. BLive aims to launch its own set of multi-brand outlets across India.
“The intent would be to give the same experience to the consumer of choice, expertise and ease of ownership in an offline format. The model will be a franchise-driven dealership. Wherein BLive will drive the master partnerships with the OEMs and the dealers would procure the products based on the market they serve from us. Thus, managing the minimum order quantity requirements from the brands and giving the dealer a wider variety to sell. We are looking to launch with 3-4 brands to start with in the e-scooter segment and 5-6 brands of e-bikes. The idea would be to cater to different price segments to appeal to customers across every segment. The dealers would also get support of insurance and finance through our tie-ups.”
The company aims to cater to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities initially and plans to have larger format stores in Bangalore, Delhi and Pune. The target is to open 20 retail stores across India in this fiscal. BLive is already in conversation with multiple parties in North and South India. The touchpoints will be present in the entire consumer lifecycle from sales, service to charging infrastructure.
“We aim to raise our Series A funding by end-2021. We want to have at least 10 retail stores up and running by then to show the traction and scalability. We are looking to break even in three years. We have created an asset-light and a low resource model for both sides of our business and are confident to achieve the same,” adds Mukherjee.
This feature was first published in Autocar Professional's May 1, 2021 issue.