A Delhi Based Startup to Power 50,000 Plus Drivers in the Near Future
A Delhi Based Startup, Chargeup offers a “Battery Swapping Service” to a growing community of 2.4 million E-Rickshaws, which allows them to increase their range. Apart from that, the company is building an FI-NE-TECH Platform (Finance-Network-Technology Platform) to power the growth of last-mile mobility drivers and the adoption of EVs in India. With Chargeup, not only are EV drivers able to overcome range anxiety through their subscription-based battery-swapping service but also access to its ever-expanding network of battery-swapping stations. They also get easy access to vehicle finance apart from battery management solutions and other tech tools. Chargeup is a company that is not just focusing on powering an EV, but also building a whole ecosystem that helps improve the user experience and makes life better for the EV drivers and their families, shares Varun Goenka, CEO and Co-Founder, Chargeup during an interaction with Nitisha. He also shares his future plans for the growing market.
Kindly elaborate Chargeup and its special offerings. Also, highlight your journey and agenda to setup this company.
The idea for Chargeup germinated in the year 2018. I had moved to Delhi from Guwahati and during one of these days, was making my way through the congested roads in an e-rickshaw since I was in a hurry to get somewhere. Suddenly, the EV stopped and the driver informed me that there was an issue with the battery that could take some time to fix. Realization dawned and I understood that I was probably just one of the many people like this who would be forced to switch vehicles in the middle of a commute and opt for a conventional vehicle! This was not just my problem but a larger challenge in the EV space itself. When the battery runs out, not only does the driver lose his customers but also ROI. This is where I decided to combine my expertise of working in the cleantech space with my knowledge of finance, and came up with a solution — battery swapping which I thought would allow seamless EV rides. I switched my job in 2019 and went into this full time. I was joined in my endeavor by Ankur Madan in 2021 and we began Chargeup, a company building India’s first FI-NE-TECH Platform (Finance-Network-Technology Platform) to power the growth of last-mile mobility drivers and adoption of EV.
Our vision behind Chargeup is to enable India transition into a sustainable and accessible mobility ecosystem. We are enabling drivers to reduce the cost of their EV ownership through a range of attractive financing options. We are also helping them overcome range anxiety and supporting them in covering longer distances and earning more every day by providing easy Battery-as-a-Service offering. This is being done through a continuously expanding network of over 200 Battery Swapping Stations in Delhi/NCR that currently handles over 100,000 swaps each month. Chargeup has built an extensive and advanced tech-driven platform that facilitates safe and reliable ride experience along with easy-to-use apps that provide alerts and routing assistance.
Kindly throw some light on your investors and what kinds of seed funding you are seeking for future growth?
We recently raised $7 million in a Pre-Series A1 round which was led by Capital-A and Anicut Capital along with other marquee investors including Ekta Kapoor, Sunil Kalra, and Sachin Mehra. Jiraaf, a platform for high-yield alternative investment opportunities also participated in the round by extending debt to Chargeup. Our investors include some of the most renowned domestic early-stage VCs that are supporting the growth of climate-tech sector in India. Capital A has setup a dedicated $10 million cleantech fund ‘Evolve’ through which it is making meaningful investments in areas like battery technology, battery swapping, power trains, battery management systems, charging infrastructure, and other related adjacencies. Anicut Capital is another prominent Indian VC that has backed several early-stage startups on their path to success. Going forward, we will be raising funds in future that are commensurate with our growth plans and can help us scale our technology and network to serve the massive demand that the Indian EV sector will present in the years ahead.
How do you define Chargeup from other EV charging companies? Kindly elaborate.
Chargeup is not just an EV energy company. Our services and vision go far beyond setting up swapping stations to power the EVs. We are building a FI-NE-TECH Platform (Finance-Network-Technology Platform) to power the growth of last-mile mobility drivers and adoption of EVs in India. With Chargeup, not only are EV drivers able to overcome range anxiety through our subscription-based battery swapping service but also access to our ever-expanding network of battery-swapping stations. They also get easy access to vehicle finance apart from battery management solutions and other tech tools. Chargeup is a company that is not just focusing on powering an EV, but also building a whole ecosystem that helps improve the user experience and makes life better for the EV drivers and their families.
What kind of challenges EV industry is facing and how it can be resolved? Explain.
Indian EV industry is enjoying a wonderful spell of growth. There are some challenges, but those are more of teething problems such as lack of clarity about certain operational aspects and high costs of EV ownership that currently discourages a lot of people from making the switch to EVs. We have been working closely with the government and other ecosystem stakeholders to overcome these challenges. For instance, the government is working on finalizing a Draft Battery Swapping policy that will clearly lay down the guidelines for battery swapping activities, and also battery manufacturing standards in India. Recently, the government had come out with safety guidelines that will help in standardizing EV batteries and ensuring greater safety for the vehicle users.
Another challenge that the EV sector faces is that of range anxiety, and through our Battery-as-a-Service offering, we are providing the EV drivers, an option of getting discharged batteries swapped with fully charged ones. This eliminates the need for the EV drivers to spend long hours on charging and helps them earn more money by traveling longer distances each day.
We are also collaborating with various stakeholders like OEMs and finance companies to offer affordable and easy EV finance schemes that are bound to reduce the cost of EV ownership and increase adoption in the times ahead.
Overall, all the challenges can be overcome through a collaborative ecosystem approach that includes platforms like Chargeup, EV OEMs, battery manufacturers, and Government bodies. We are advancing in that direction and things look great hereon.
What are your views about the latest budget announcement on EV batteries?
The Budget has been really encouraging for the EV battery segment. The government’s decision to exempt custom duty on import of machinery required to manufacture EV batteries in India, and even the raw materials used in the production of the batteries are being exempted. The emphasis on green growth and net-zero emissions is the need of the hour as outlined in the Union Budget. The decision to support Battery Energy Storage Systems with capacity of 4,000 MWH with viability gap funding will give a huge impetus to the clean energy sector.
One of the most impactful decisions this time is the extension of customs duty exemption for import of capital goods and machinery required to produce lithium-ion batteries for EVs in India. This move will reduce the initial capital investment needs for the battery manufacturers and is also likely to make the batteries become cheaper as there will be a larger manufacturing base for them. Concession on duty on lithium-ion cells import for EV batteries has also been extended for another year, which would lead to greater EV adoption in 2023. Similarly, basic customs duty exemption on raw materials required for manufacturing of nickel cathode used in the batteries has also been continued. These announcements will boost domestic manufacturing of EV batteries, and the overall growth of the EV ecosystem in India.
Kindly talk about latest development of Chargeup and also share your future marketing strategies.
Chargeup is currently focusing on expanding its services to 20 new cities, and power 50,000 plus drivers in the near future. The company is also further developing its unique FineTech platform and tech stack to ensure 100% uptime and a seamless experience for all customers. We are aiming to make EV expenditure go down by up to 40% for the drivers, and increasing their revenue by 80%. Chargeup has also been entering into collaborations with leading OEMs and EV fleet users for further expansion of the emission-free mobility. Recently, we organized first-ever EV Mela in Delhi (Uttam Nagar) to an overwhelming response. About 1.5 crore vehicles were booked in the event that was attended by over 1000 e-rickshaw drivers. Similarly, we have tied up with the leading food delivery platform Zomato to offer easy financing and leasing of EVs for their delivery partners. Going forward, Chargeup will continue to leverage the power of such collaborations to expand its service coverage and brand presence.