On the first of April, Lithos Motors was abuzz with activity and energy as they made their first delivery of self designed electric two wheelers to four of the ‘Faasos’ outlets in Kharadi, Sangvi, Undri and Kalyani Nagar(Pune). Lithos Motors, has been making electric vehicles and electric bikes for delivery boys since the end of 2015. This month I have interacted with Aditya Ganjapure from Lithos Motors, who has started it with his friend Angad Singi. It was a peaceful experience conversing with Aditya. They got to know each other while working for automobile competitions like Supra (An intercollegiate design competition run by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) in which teams of students from universities all over the world design and build small F1 type cars.). They soon discovered that both of them were deeply interested in automobiles and aspired to start something of their own. Then together they went on to make foldable electric bike as their Final year project in engineering and even bagged the first prize in SAE Western India project competition with this foldable bike, where the head of SAE encouraged them to commercialize their product. This has been a recurrent theme so far hasn’t it? All the people with whom I have conversed, already knew what they liked or wanted to do and were working to develop their skills in that field.
Both, Aditya and Angad are Mechanical engineers from Shri Ramdeobaba College of Engineering, Nagpur. They came to Pune to leverage the wide automobile hub here and its expertise in the manufacturing sector for their business. I found it most admirable that they strongly believe in bringing electric vehicles to the market as a means to improve the air quality index in India which is deteriorating rapidly. In fact the name ‘Lithos’ comes from Lithosphere which these electric motors will help in protecting from the onslaught of Green house gases generated by the vehicle exhaust. This was a high investment project and so they pitched their idea to DTDC( Desk to Desk Courier & Cargo) and were granted 33 lakh rupees for their venture! Now they had the money, they came to Pune and rented a place. They hired four employees consisting of electronics engineers and industrial design engineers and they had a team of six. Now the challenge was to design the most commercially viable model and deal with the technical intricacies of the bike. They had to study all the technicalities involved in designing and manufacturing of the electric bikes as they had little experience of running a business. They went to Google and read various books. In fact both Angad and Aditya are voracious readers. They made many iterations of the bike models but could not get it right. The models continued to fail to be market ready or sometimes technically sound. They then came up with an idea to make bikes only for delivery guys. As they travel in only 5 kilometers radius to deliver, the major disadvantage of an electric bike which is slow speed does not affect them much and yet they save up to 14 rupees per delivery on fuel expenses, making them an ideal market segment for the electric motor family. This identification of an ideal market segment is very insightful, isn’t it? They pitched their product to organizations like Faasos, but they were running out of money and quickly. The situation was less than ideal but the ‘Lithos motors’ team did not waver. They could not pay their employees and yet two of them chose to remain with them. Aditya thinks of them as a part of ‘Lithos motor’ family. In this situation, Aditya and team conducted workshops in Pune to earn money. Their schedule was taxing. In the morning they worked on the bikes, ran workshops on go-cart making in the afternoon and evening, Aditya took on to answering answers on Chegg.com at night. Angad ferried taxis across the city. All through this never losing sight of what they wanted to achieve.
Aditya believes that every person has this phase in their life, where you feel like everything is going wrong, everything tells you to change the course, if you prevail during this time, there are high chances that you will overcome the situation and overcome they did! They designed a marketable model, but had no money to market it. They had approached Faasos and after two- three months of anxious anticipation, at last they had got their first order! Now the only constraint was money. They approached many banks but were turned down. They designed their own fixtures and got them manufactured from the vendors in three to four thousand rupees. They generally ordered their controllers from China, and they needed to order such a batch of controllers for their new order but they did not have enough money for this. In China, one needs to make the complete payment upfront to buy any product. And China had a major holiday approaching soon, and if they failed to place their order before that, they wouldn’t have been able to meet their deadline for Faasos. It was their first order, it was of utmost importance that it be made in time. During such a time Aditya had gone to one of their vendors for some work, where he met a person Pravin Jadhav, who on listening to their idea and current situation was willing to invest in them immediately. On this Aditya says,”God sends help in all forms.” Thus the controllers were ordered and the bikes were ready to be sent! I find the way they have kept working towards their goal through all odds very inspiring, their journey so far has been fraught with challenges and yet they have retained their faith in their product as well as their ability in commercializing it. The way they have approached all venues (legally available) to earn money without grading the profession is admirable to me. Now with their first delivery done, they are filled with new sense of achievement and are hopeful in establishing themselves in the ‘yet to come’ but ‘sure to stay’ electric vehicle market.
As always, I will be back in May with a new venture or a venturist, hope to see you too……..