GMW’s success, as a bootstrapped startup in T-Hub, recently found its co-founder Rahul a place in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2018 list.

T-Hub turns 3 Meet Hyd startup Gayam whose innovation can revolutionise e-vehicles
Atom Startups Monday, November 19, 2018 - 15:22

As part of T-Hub’s third anniversary, TNM will be featuring five startups that have been with T-Hub since its inception and have grown into success stories.

At a time when India is yet to realise its electric vehicle dream, struggling to put the infrastructure in place, two brothers from Hyderabad are going places in that very space.

While putting charging infrastructure in place has been the biggest barrier for electric vehicle makers and the government in India, Rahul and Raja Gayam’s innovation overcomes that very barrier.

After returning from the US, Rahul joined Raja, who has been running Gayam Motor Works (GMW) in Hyderabad, an auto rickshaw manufacturing and export business since 2010. GMW was already making electric auto rickshaws that it was exporting to Terra Motors in Japan. But these lead acid battery run e-rickshaws have a maximum speed of only 22-25 kmph. So they went back to the drawing board and after several years of research and development, developed e-autos powered by lithium-ion batteries and launched their first e-auto in mid-2015.

Unlike rickshaws with lead-acid batteries, the Smart Auto gives a maximum speed of 55 kmph and can go for 100 km on a single charge.

As against diesel rickshaws which have a running cost of Rs 3.5/km, the Smart Auto has a running cost of only Rs 0.50/km.

However, while they weren’t clear about who their target audience would be, a few pilots made it clear that the consumer segment wasn’t ready for e-autos yet, especially because of lack of charging infrastructure. Moreover, auto drivers didn’t want to spend a few hours of their day charging their vehicle, losing out on business. That’s when the Gayam brothers pivoted from a consumer product to a commercial vehicle, targeting the B2B segment. They then also came up with the idea of a battery-swapping mechanism.

In the battery-swapping mechanism, the batteries are removable, can be swapped and charged separately. This removed the need to depend on a charging station.

The smart auto is now being used by several companies for activities such as delivery and transportation of cargo. Gayam’s first customer was Bigbasket, which used the smart autos in Gurugram for delivery. They are now used in Hyderabad as well and Gayam has a forecast of 1,500 smart autos from Bigbasket itself.

Gayam’s clientele also includes IKEA, Flipkart, Walmart, ID, Amazon, Chaiguru, Gati, Shadowfax, among others. It is also working with municipalities in Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Tirupati and Visakhapatnam. It sets up the battery swapping and charging infrastructure in the warehouses of these companies.

Electric bikes

Apart from smart autos, GMW also developed electric bikes called Limitless e-bikes. Unlike normal bicycles, these electric bikes come with different levels of pedal assistances to give you a push and are also powered by lithium-ion batteries. When you start pedalling, the motor kicks in and supplies about 80% of the energy. And if you don’t want to pedal, there is also a throttle next to the right handle, which can take you from 0 to 25 kmph in five seconds. And against a moped’s running cost of about Rs 1.5/km, Limitless has a running cost of only 7 paise per km.

For its Limitless e-bikes, their first customer was Uber, which Gayam says, was all thanks to T-Hub. “As soon as we had the first e-bike to showcase, T-Hub introduced us to the Asia Pacific head of Uber who was visiting Hyderabad at the time. We got an opportunity to demonstrate our e-bikes to them and soon, they were deployed by Uber in Hong Kong, Singapore and San Francisco for Uber’s food delivery arm, UberEats,” Harsha Bavirisetty, COO, Gayam Motor Works says.

And it’s not just Uber, Gayam says that T-Hub has helped it connect to various clients, especially in the government and other T-Hub startups, to collaborate and work with. “Apart from connections, there are been tremendous learning at T-Hub, especially through the sessions they regularly conduct on business development, go-to market and scaling strategies,” Harsha adds.

Gayam has also exported its bikes to Central America for on-street police patrolling. Similar use cases then emerged in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh as well. Hyderabad police have deployed over 100 e-bikes, while in AP women cops are using these e-bikes for police patrolling.

With the public bike-sharing ecosystem beginning to grow in India, Gayam is also eyeing that market, to collaborate with players in this area. It will also soon be deploying its e-bikes in Visakhapatnam for public sharing.

GMW’s success, as a bootstrapped startup, also recently found Rahul a place in the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2018 list.

It has also received several accolades, such as the Platinum Award for Innovative EV of the Year by India Smart Grid Forum in 2018, Top 10 UBERExchange from India in 2017. It was also among the 40 others shortlisted as part of Emerge 50, Nasscom’s list of most innovative top 50 emerging software product companies last year and part of top 10 Startups by Intel IFDI in 2017

After years of bootstrapping and growing the company to its current size, Gayam is looking to raise $15-20 million as part of its Series A funding round.

Gayam has now started to export to countries such as Bangladesh, Peru, Lebanon and the UK.

Going forward, Gayam’s focus will be on establishing the battery swapping network. “The traction for three-wheeler itself is very high. Our focus is on making that efficient now. But there is also a four-wheeler segment for light commercial vehicles (LCV) on the roadmap. This too will be light cargo vehicles to be used for cargo or deliveries. And for the near future, the focus will be on the B2B segment,” Harsha adds.

Also read: T-Hub turns 3: Meet AnyTimeLoan, a startup that can give you a loan in 15 minutes

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