RK Misra, co-founder, Yulu Bike, in conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now
GN Bureau | April 15, 2022
As life came to standstill during the lockdown and everyone was confined within four walls of their homes, India’s gig economy ensured that basic supplies were not hampered. At that time, in Bengaluru, Yulu e Bikes were the only vehicles on road supplying essentials to homes.
In a conversation with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, Yulu Bikes co-founder RK Misra has said that India’s EV policy is progressive and people will move from conventional vehicles to electric when the right product is available.
“India’s EV policy is progressive. There is huge market for EVs in the country. The shift will happen when the right fit product is available. The government needs to focus on shared mobility and gig economy workers that comprises of 1.5 crore people which will lead to huge intake.”
Misra was in a webcast as part of Visionary Talk series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform.
The Yulu co-founder said that people want reasonably priced product without compromising on quality. However, he rued that most products available in the market today are not going to last even three years, forget 10 years. “Unfortunately, India does not do enough R&D and available quality is not at par with China,” he said adding that though the intent of EV policy is good it is poorly conceptualized and flawed and for that reason the uptake has been was very low.
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“It was not a necessary purchase but a discretionary purchase. Production happens when it becomes a necessity and the government has not taken care of that. The government somehow has only promoted private electric vehicles consumption and these vehicles nowhere in the world need extensive charging infrastructure,” he said.
“There is no manufacturing facility for battery cells. Battery cells come from China, Japan and Korea, and India is only doing assembly. Though companies like Bajaj, Hero Electric and others are working, quality is not at par with that of a two-stroke scooter or bike that the consumer has been using,” he said.
Misra further said that in India charging infrastructure is needed largely for people who use EVs a lot, like gig economy workers, travelling salesmen, courier and delivery people who need to reach their destination on time. These people need to swap their vehicle instead of charging them and charging infrastructure except on highway is not an impediment.
Asked if rising crude oil prices could push people to shift to electric vehicles, Misra said that is inevitable but the country has no supplies as it does not manufacture any components or electronics and sources them from China. He said that despite India having a high mix of conventional energy, the growth rate of alternative energy is increasing and could go up to 30% -40% in the next few years.
Talking about the lockdown, he said it was challenging as all movement had stopped. Though Yulu had a few competitors when it started, slowly everyone shut shop and wound up their business. As all movement had stopped, food, groceries, medicines and essentials had to move to people. The company at that time tied up with authorities. He said it is matter of immense pride for them that in Bengaluru, Yulu bikes were the only vehicles on road and no employee was fired during lockdown and most employees had turned delivery boys.
Asked if the pandemic has changed consumers’ habits of travelling, he said people now prefer to go solo and don’t mind owning a second-hand affordable vehicle.
Speaking further on the challenges faced by the company, he said as Yulu does not have manufacturing facilities, they designed their own product and got it manufactured largely in China and other places while battery was done in India. Many components were sourced from Bajaj and assembly was done.
“Each Yulu bike is being used by three people daily and doing well. Despite these challenges Yulu is surviving and doing well. We have been working towards not only in transport but also having responsible and sustainable transport.
“If the government consistently maintains its efforts of manufacturing components indigenously for the next 5-10 years we could hopefully reach to 1/20th of China’s capacity. At present all available parts are hacks of parts sourced from China, Japan and Korea. Producing reasonably high-quality vehicles priced between Rs 40,000-Rs 60,000 with reasonably good charging infrastructure which primarily will come from swapping will be suitably used by its huge gig economy workers.”
The start-up owner said that shared vehicles like Ola, Uber, buses/school buses, taxi, autos etc. must be regulated with incentives and the government must make them electric with five-year plans. He added that after Yulu’s new vehicle currently manufactured by Bajaj is out within a month, the company will go for full employment.
Responding to a question on if India can achieve its target of $5 trillion mark economy, Misra who has worked on policies with the GoI at different levels said next 20-40 years belong to India. The country has potential for not only economic growth but also providing high quality of life. India has the potential to become $10 trillion economy by 2035.
“In India there is no routine. There are so many problems to solve and for that reason there are bigger opportunities and you acknowledge growth. Growth is change and brings excitement. It is fun to make a country a growing economy. For people who are capable, India offers best opportunities and prospects, not just economic growth but also higher quality of life.”
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