Ranjita Ravi (E13) is bringing green mobility to India at a high speed with Orxa Energies, an electric vehicle start-up she co-founded with her partner Prajwal Sabnis (École des Mines). She tells us more about her venture.
ESSEC Alumni: How and why did you switch from the pharmaceutical industry to the EV sector?
Ranjita Ravi: My partner Prajwal Sabnis and I both switched industries to start Orxa Energies. I moved away from Sanofi and he left Safran. The pollution in Bangalore was the initial push, and we were keen on the startup scene. However the move wasn’t so drastic. There are many things in common between aerospace, pharmaceuticals and automotive industries. These are highly regulated activities with long development cycles and a focus on quality, as consumer’s safety is critical to the business. So we had transferable skills we could easily bring to the table.
EA: Can you tell us more about Orxa Energies?
R. Ravi: We at Orxa Energies believe in electrifying all means of transport as fast as we can. We build high-performance electric motorcycles without the hassles of range issues and charging anxiety. And we electrify our vehicles with safe, secure and fast battery swap for limitless range.
We also make powerful batteries for other industries with the ability to manage the specific challenges of performance vehicles – longevity, thermals, weight and volume. Our items are being used in aerospace, UGV, and automotive applications. This is “Battery-as-a-Product”. We are also working on developing and validating our swap model for our performance battery packs, and this will be “Battery-as-a-Service”.
EA: How polluting are regular motorbikes compared to other vehicles?
R. Ravi: Two-wheelers, primarily motorcycles, account for around 79% of all vehicles in India. They also spew the most pollutants into the air, and are responsible for nearly 32% of the air pollution in our country. This comes against the fact that 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are situated in India.
EA: Are Indians ready to switch to electric two-wheelers?
R. Ravi: Early negative perception, poor performance and range anxiety have been contributing to low adoption rates in India. However electric two-wheelers sales showed a substantial growth of 138% with 54,800 units sold in 2017-18 compared to 23,000 in the previous year. The key reason behind this newfound success is affordability and the fact that two-wheelers are used for short commutes, which eliminate range anxiety.
That being said, China’s production of electric two-wheelers was 20 million in 2017-18. We still have a long way to go – but the potential outcomes are massive!
EA: How advanced is the green mobility sector in India?
R. Ravi: The EV industry in India has had many false starts over the last decade. A few years ago we had the Reva car, but no other players. Nowadays, there are concerted efforts between the Central and State Governments along with many industry leaders on pushing the green mobility agenda in India. And it’s working: the EV industry has witnessed a growth of 124% selling 56,000 units in 2017-18 as against 25,000 units in the previous year.
EA: What are the next steps for Orxa Energies?
R. Ravi: We will have our performance vehicle platform certified shortly. We now want to tackle the issues of long charging times and high upfront costs by developing our modular battery packs as a swap service for the fleet operators. We’re also pushing ahead the sales of our battery packs for multiple applications (automotive, aerospace, etc.).
In 2019, to quote Jeff Bezos, we are moving “step-by-step, ferociously” (‘Gradatim Ferociter’). You can look forward to our battery pack assembly set up and a rapid increase in battery sales. On the vehicle side, we will be completing the automotive certification for Mantis and looking forward to its market launch.
EA: What does one need to know before launching a startup in India?
R. Ravi: India is the world’s 2nd largest startup ecosystem. There are many initiatives supporting entrepreneurs in our country. The government launched the Startup India program, which grants you with a simplified process when filing your IP, and with a 80% fees waiver. Startups can also register as MSMEs (Micro Small & Medium Enterprise – equivalent to the French PME) and get several benefits, such as 45-day payment terms, a 50% subsidy on patents, and collateral-free loans.
However a vast majority of startups in India tend to be IT-based, and hardware remains, well, hard. I wrote two articles recently about the issues we face as a hardware company and how we go about solving them.
EA: Is your ESSEC background of any help for your project?
R. Ravi: Most definitely. ESSEC was a wonderful experience for me. Having a peer group from different backgrounds; taking a great variety of courses; doing an apprenticeship; going on an academic exchange at Kellogg; joining ESSEC Inde and other student associations… Those were all great learning opportunities for me.
EA: Are you in touch with fellow alumni in India? Is there a strong ESSEC network in India?
R. Ravi: The ESSEC Alumni network in India is very strong – especially in the major cities of Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. We have regular intra-city get-togethers and networking events. In fact, we plan to have a meet-up in Delhi in May 2019, which we are organizing for already. Let us know if you’re interested!
Interview by Louis Armengaud Wurmser (E10), Content Manager at ESSEC Alumni
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