Counterthesis: Altigreen's Amitabh Saran believes electric three-wheelers have a long tail, longer than two- or four-wheelers – The Ken

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Thesis: In September, electric-vehicle (EV) sales data

showed showed EVreporter India’s electric vehicle sales trend Read more that three-wheelers are growing faster than two-wheelers. Strikingly, the initial frenzy for two-wheelers seems to be cooling off. Just seven companies sold 86% of all electric two-wheelers; while 11 companies did not register a single vehicle in September. Two market leaders, Hero Electric and Okinawa, are being audited by the government for claiming subsidies for localisation, which their vehicles allegedly don’t have. Speed to market was a feature, not a bug, for a good section of the EV market.
Altigreen co-founder Amitabh Saran has a Counterthesis. Slow and deliberate to the market, and unlike most EV makers, this electric three-wheeler company is on a dealership launch spree—it opened two this week under its target to have 40 in 40 cities by 2023. Unlike many electric two-wheelers, which, in the initial days, were assembled from imported kits, electric three-wheeler companies have had to engineer products for the Indian market. A non-sexy category where even owners are not enthused about their vehicles, Saran says electric three-wheelers have a long tail.
Diesel has been around for over 100 years and has done a great job, even with potholes, waterlogging, and overloading… it has performed. As an EV manufacturer, I have to compete with diesel, which has no uncertainty. I can’t say EVs are good for the environment but won’t perform like diesel. A driver’s livelihood depends on it.
You have to think when was the last time your ceiling fan went out of order? Or your television? How often is it that your phone conks off? If it does, you must have done something stupid.
We have to give that experience in EVs—the confidence that you can drive to a dealer any time of the day and someone is there to care for you. In 10 years, I am certain that augmented reality and virtual reality will become rampant, and things will move online, but until then, we have to reach out to people. It’s a massive [transportation] shift that’s underway.
The general notion is that three-wheelers are not exciting. It’s not exciting even for the driver. Everyone thinks the driver will take the longer route, fleece you… The only time we like a three-wheeler is when there’s a strike. Pride in ownership is necessary, no? A three-wheeler buyer is spending the same amount of money as an Alto [car] buyer. But look at the difference in experience. For an Alto buyer, there’s an AC showroom, a welcome drink, people ask him, ‘what is the colour you want in your vehicle, what is the financing’, and so on.

Seema has over two decades of experience in journalism. Before starting The Ken, Seema wrote “Myth Breaker: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and the Story of Indian Biotech”, published by HarperCollins in May 2016. Prior to that, she was a senior editor and bureau chief for Bangalore with Forbes India, and before that she wrote for Mint. Seema has written for numerous international publications like IEEE-Spectrum, New Scientist, Cell and Newsweek. Seema is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MacArthur Foundation Research Grantee.
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