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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Nitin Kapoor: The e-rickshaw pioneer who overcame obstacles, to build Rs 320 crore EV powerhouse

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Despite several problems, Nitin Kapoor founded Saera Electric Auto Pvt Ltd, which introduced India’s first e-rickshaw, Mayuri, in 2011.

Nitin’s idea to construct environmentally friendly motorized vehicles has turned last-mile connection and short-distance travel into a popular and eco-friendly alternative that has improved the lives of many disadvantaged rickshaw pullers.

To grow his firm from Rs 2 crore to Rs 320 crore, Nitin overcame several obstacles, including the 2013 Supreme Court ban on e-rickshaws, demonetization, and the COVID-19 epidemic.

“2013 was a difficult year, as e-rickshaws were deemed non-compliant with the Electric Vehicle registration rules under the EV Policy, even though then Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit supported them,” Nitin says.

After a traffic accident involving an e-rickshaw that killed a toddler, the Supreme Court prohibited them in 2013. E-rickshaws were not covered by the Motor Vehicle Act.

“We formed an association and approached the government with our grievances,” Nitin recalls, when they had to suspend manufacturing and the industry’s future appeared dismal.

We then worked with the government to pass legislation to register these cars under the Motor Vehicle Act and give them legal legitimacy.” New e-rickshaw laws were passed in 2014 after the administration shifted.

“We followed all the rules and started our Make in India journey with renewed vigor,” adds Nitin.

Over 2.5 lakh Mayuri electric rickshaws have been sold and utilized in major cities where state governments have allowed them.

“I still feel the impoverished blessed us to grow. Due to the EV prohibition, we had nearly nil turnover in 2014, but Rs 29 crore in 2015. That year, we opened a facility in Bhiwadi, Rajasthan “says.

Our firm relied on cash, therefore demonetization was difficult in 2016. Sales rose to Rs 80 crore in 2020 from Rs 33 crore in 2019.

Covid reduced output and turnover to Rs 45 crore in 2021. In 2022, it reached Rs 152 crore. This year, we made 28,000 e-rickshaws.”

Many migrant workers who went home after losing their employment bought e-rickshaws and were self-employed, which boosted sales following the shutdown.

With around 450 people, the firm produces 120 e-rickshaws daily.

They opened a 350-vehicle-per-day facility in Bawal (Haryana) in 2021 and a plant in Kosi (UP) shortly.

Our 2020 acquisition of a Harley Davidson facility with new gear. In four months, it will be functioning. Next-level e-rickshaws will be made “says Nitin.

The firm manufactures electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers, with a capacity of 224,000 and 36,000, respectively.

Nitin, 43, was born in Panipat, Haryana, and moved to Delhi with his family aged one. Father Vijay Kapoor is a businessman, mother Preeti Kapoor is a homemaker.

Indian harvester combine technology and concepts came from Germany via Vijay Kapoor. He initially imported harvester combine equipment and contracted with farmers to harvest.

Later, he made harvester blades, fingers, and whole harvester combines for Indian farmers.

Nitin earned a B.Com from Deen Dayal College, Delhi University (1996-1999) after graduating from New Era Public School in Mayapuri, Delhi, in 1996.

He temporarily joined his father’s firm before travelling to Pune for an MBA from Symbiosis (2000–2002). Nitin joined his father’s firm in 2002 after graduating.

“That year, a Taiwanese manufacturer asked us to make induction cooking equipment parts. This collaboration made us India’s only representative for induction cooker heating systems, recalls Nitin, recalling his time at his father’s firm.

By 2012, we were an OEM for numerous firms, making high-quality, low-cost induction heating units. My elder brother Bipin Kapoor runs the firm.”

Nitin discusses the enterprise that altered his life and Delhi’s transit.

“I’ve always liked thinking and designing. Nitin claims Mayura was born in 2007 when he considered a need-based notion to employ technology for social good.

We proposed a motorized tricycle rickshaw in 2011 to make pedal rickshaw pulling easier.

Instead, we chose a 2×2 electric four-seater rickshaw for stability. Saera Electric Auto Pvt Ltd was founded in 2011 with Rs 80 lakh investments under the name Mayuri.”

While the prototypes were being intensively tested in front of their Delhi office in 2012, a mother approached the business with her 18-year-old son. She anticipated her son driving the e-rickshaw would give a steady income.

Although the testing were ongoing, her involvement resulted to the sale of the first Mayuri. This sale enabled field feedback. It cost her Rs 50,000 but was reduced.

Her son became a product evangelist, earning Rs 1,000-1,200 each day. More customers lined up to buy the car.

Low-income people found the e-rickshaw a suitable livelihood possibility through word of mouth. Nitin claims the rickshaw pullers became our salesmen, saving us major promotion.

They were also challenged by Chinese items flooding the market.

Nitin says,  “The pricing was the same, but Chinese items had a superior feel and finish, hurting sales. Our business plummeted 30%. After some time, buyers noticed our items were more durable. Business revived. The brand Mayuri gained trust. We updated designs and added accessories based on comments. The seventh generation or version of an e-rickshaw costs Rs 1.5 lakh now.”

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