I was in Nagpur, early April, to attend a TiE conference. This was my second visit to the orange city of India in a decade. And what a pleasant surprise it was, in the way the city has evolved without losing its small town charm, and how the spirit of entrepreneurship has taken wings without losing its humility. The city clearly has an ethos that has deep roots and that to me ensures it a very bright future. Among the numerous images and interactions that have left an impression on my mind, there are two that relate to two-wheelers motorcycle, therefore worth sharing.
Impression #1: While going to the conference venue, I saw a man on a motorcycle with a cart attached to the rear wheel that was full of dairy products! I could not take a pic right then [need a phone upgrade] but hunted online and found a pic on www.40kmph.com very similar to what I saw on the Nagpur street. What a brilliant concept! Right now it is what we disparagingly call a jugaad, but can definitely be taken up as a full business proposition, by either a motorcycle maker or a customiser who brings in aspects of quality, design and reliability. Che would surely have been mighty pleased to see something like this! We have micro CV and light CV makers doing umpteen application-based variants of their vehicles yet we see very few from the two-wheeler brands. The most we have seen are the pizza delivery types and mobile ambulances in small towns.
“At 25 years of age, I found in Angad a level of maturity I have rarely seen in many automotive CEOs and VPs I have met.”
Impression #02. At the conference I met a remarkable man called Angad Singi, the co-founder of Lithos Motors. At 25 years of age, I found in Angad a level of maturity I have rarely seen in many automotive CEOs and VPs I have met. Lithos Motors is in the business of designing and making last-mile e-motorcycles. Their first vehicle, still under test, is called Sigma. The first look is striking… the fat tyres and the body structure. The team at Lithos has spent months researching on the aspect of last-mile delivery, the hot buttons and the pain points of the people who need vehicles for this purpose. The Sigma hopes to resolve their demands. In the middle of all this hectic activity Angad plays the role of gyan provider to the entire team. He reads a new book every 2-3 days and shares the key learnings with the rest of Lithos. He explained that amidst all the design and engineering and prototyping and sourcing and negotiating, his role is motivating and infusion of knowledge. Because that is precisely what will make Lithos stand apart from the others in the e-bike space. How many CEOs of automakers have the clarity, candour and the capability to do so?
Last-mile mobility solutions is a sunrise segment within the automobile industry. The activity by itself will be worth billions of dollars in terms of design, research, engineering, manufacturing, logistics support and employment. In fact, the last-mile mobility segment can be an area which the Indian automobile industry can focus on as a provider not only to its own requirement but across the world. Just like taking the sub-4 metre sedan across the world was a great opportunity [that has been lost], so is this segment a true and shining example of Make-in-India, wherein the eco-system of engineering institutes, innovators, material technologists and two-wheeler makers come together. Yet very few have invested in it seriously.
Well, maybe that is good in a way, as it allows innovators like the dairy-man and Angad Singi to stand up and be counted.