With the objective to enhance and empower life, especially in rural, through the affordable electric vehicles, Hemalatha Annamalai founded Ampere Vehicles. Samiksha Jain narrates the innovator’s journey.
Hemalatha Annamalai, founder and CEO of Ampere Vehicle Pvt. Ltd., has been on the move to empower and enhance the lives of the people with electric vehicle. This happened after she went to attend a conference in Japan.“While attending a conference in Japan, the CTO of a company made a statement that the era of internal combustion engines would soon end. That statement set me thinking and here I am making E-vehicles. We chose Coimbatore for its entrepreneurial spirit and also because our focus is primarily on tier II, III and IV cities,” recounts Annamalai.
A former software engineer, Annamalai bet her personal savings to start a light electric vehicle company, Ampere. She also raised the first round of funding from two private equity firms. Today, five-year-old Ampere sells about 10,000 light E-vehicles, ranging from scooters to motorbikes, annually in South India, and the brand has become trustworthy among the people.
Her innovation has succeeded in making electric vehicles and a broad range of applications, from medical to industrial. But rural India remains her innovations’ chief users; the profile of Ampere rural customer comprises of shopkeepers to farmers. “Our target groups are the people who are looking for the low-cost alternative. Senior citizen, farmers, working women, people with disability,”says the CEO.
Annamalai claims that the biggest challenge was the government policy, which has been a hurdle till date. This runs contrary to its attempt to promote cleaner technology; the government actually in 2010 announced a subsidy of about 4897 Rs.to anyone who bought an electric vehicle. Initially, the move for cleaner environment led to a rise in sales, then an abrupt ban hit the business hard.
Four months after the announcement, the government capped the subsidy, and shortly thereafter the programme was scrapped. However, the government is formulating of a new and much larger Rs 253 billion programme to support electric vehicles with the goal of getting 6 millions of them on the road by 2020. But in a country with erratic power supply and a base of almost no electric vehicles, the goal may be difficult to achieve.
Inspite the hurdle, the CEO claims that the company’s USP has enabled her to know success. “The main USPs for the products are cost-saving, convenience and freedom. Freedom, because not depending on the public transport; convenience, as they use 5A socket to charge it; and cost saving, because they spend less than one-tenth of the running cost,” opines the founder.
Ampere sells electric two-wheelers under brand names such as Angel, Bobo, Prince and V60 in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The range of products comprises of bicycle to scooter which can be used on an average of 60 kms when the battery is charged for 6-8 hours. The CEO claims that the best one is the three-wheeler designed for physically challenged people. “These electric vehicles are sold at Rs 20,000-48,000, and are 25% cheaper and the running cost is one-tenth when compared to petrol ones. An electric vehicle charged for six-eight hours can run for 60 km/day at a cost of Rs 250 per month compared with about Rs 2,000 on petrol for the same distance,” explains the proud CEO. Ampere designs and develops motors as per your requirement. At present, it has a production capacity of around 10,000 motors per month.
Ampere also develops and produces its own chargers, motors and controllers and uses high-tech chip integrated batteries that manage current flow, temperature and battery safety. It offers after-sales service, including a 24-hour helpline. The manufacturer has also developed an innovation that can revive old batteries. It expects to double its sales this year, and a revenue of Rs100 crore in the next four years.
Ampere is planning to launch Ampere Asva, a rather powerful vehicle, according to Annamali, which can travel at 45 km/hour. “Currently, our focus is on Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. We have a network of 80 dealers. We want to innovate and help the Government embrace E-vehicles in all streams. In 2015, China will move up to E-buses that can ferry more than 50 passengers. That’s the kind of vision we need to have to save our environment,” remarks Annamalai, “If there is favourable government policies, tax structure benefits, better import-export schemes, and a buzzing talent pool, then it will work wonders for the electric vehicle segment.”