Students are wont to dream, they dream of building cars, scooters, rockets and satellites. But only a chosen few turn those dreams into hard reality.
When Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain reached out to their alma mater in early 2013, they only had an idea and no clear roadmap for execution. However, three years later their startup Ather Energy, incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology in Madras, is ready with its first prototype — a smart electric scooter — that will be manufactured at a company-owned production plant in Bengaluru.
Mehta and Jain, fine-tuned their idea and did most of their tinkering and initial development on campus, where they spent over a year during 2013-2014. By then, their idea for an indigenously-built electric scooter had caught the attention of two of India's best-known entrepreneurs — Flipkart's Binny Bansal and Sachin Bansal — who backed the company as angel investors.
The company's innovative combination of mechanical engineering, computer science and battery technology is one of the reasons it has helped attract investor attention. Apart from the Bansals, Ather has also raised early-stage funding from New York-based Tiger Global, the largest investor in Flipkart.
The scooter, called S340, is designed to understand users the more they ride it. Each user will have an individual profile through which riding habits are analysed and suggestions offered for improvement.
A touchscreen dashboard connected to the cloud offers a host of features like on-board vehicle navigation, predictive diagnostics, app-based configuration and over-the-air updates. Built to run up to 60 km on a single charge, the scooter reaches top speeds of 72 kilometers per hour.
"I think it is great the jury has recognised what we are working on. The word is spreading," said Tarun Mehta, CEO of Ather Energy, on winning the 'Best on Campus' award. "We need to get our first product out and the day when we meet our first happy customer, then we will truly justify something like this. Today it is more of a promise that we are making, that this will justify the trust that people have," he said.
The startup, which unveiled its prototype in February, plans to build expansive charging infrastructure in the near future and is in the process of setting up the production unit in Bengaluru. "In the past six months, we have understood what building a vehicle means. We are building systems and processes now. By the end of the year, the (production) plant should be ready," said Mehta. Ather will build an online-only sales model with doorstep delivery and service. "Ather has the potential to be the Tesla of India," said Mukesh Bansal, cofounder of CureFit and a member of the jury.
Latest press release
October 31st, 2016
October 29th, 2016
October 27th, 2016