A green drive that be­gan be­fore Swachh Bharat


Ir­fan Khan could have con­tin­ued the pur­suit of knowl­edge of al­ter­na­tive medicine, but he de­cided that clean­ing up the en­vi­ron­ment was a more press­ing call. A res­i­dent of Dal­housie, Hi­machal Pradesh, for a decade, Khan started the eco-friendly startup eBike in 2016.

The firm pro­vides elec­tronic bikes for rentals as well as taxi and de­liv­ery ser­vices. Khan said: “It was part of my Swachh Dal­housie, which be­gan even be­fore Prime Minister Naren­dra Modi’s Swachh Bharat cam­paign.”

Ini­tially he raised cap­i­tal from friends and fam­ily. eBike uses the fran­chise­owned, com­pany-oper­ated model. The pilot project was con­ducted in Am­rit­sar in 2017. Most of the driv­ers they em­ploy are re­cov­er­ing dru­gabuse vic­tims. “Most of them have come out of re­hab cen­tres and were look­ing for em­ploy­ment,” said Khan. “They are paid ~9,000 a month.”

The start-up usu­ally di­vides a city into clus­ters. Then, fran­chises are given for rental, taxi and de­liv­ery ser­vices. Their own­er­ship con­tin­ues to be with eBike. A fran­chise owner can of­fer all three ser­vices and gets 90 per cent of the rev­enue.

The road ahead

Af­ter ini­tial suc­cess, the com­pany is now plan­ning on ex­pand­ing op­er­a­tions to New Delhi, Jaipur and Lucknow. It has also tied up with food­de­liv­ery ser­vices like Swiggy and Zo­mato and e-com­merce ma­jor Ama­zon to pro­vide bikes for de­liv­ery ser­vices.

“De­tailed stud­ies are be­ing con­ducted to as­cer­tain the kind of ser­vices to be­gin op­er­a­tions. In Am­rit­sar, for in­stance, where the pilot was con­ducted, it was started with a rental ser­vice cater­ing to tourists,” he said.

As part of ex­pan­sion plans, eBike will scout for ven­ture cap­i­tal (VC) fund­ing to raise ~2.5-3 bil­lion in the next three to four months.

“Af­ter the fran­chises are suc­cess­ful, we will look for VCs to fi­nance our fu­ture en­deav­ours,” Khan added.

On the map

A city on eBike’s map is Kota in Ra­jasthan. There is a large pop­u­la­tion of stu­dents in the city be­cause of the many ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions and coach­ing cen­tres. There is a po­ten­tial for start­ing de­liv­ery ser­vices there, said Khan.

His firm sources bikes from a Gurugram-based Ok­i­nawa. This uses Ja­panese tech­nol­ogy to man­u­fac­ture elec­tronic bikes. Each bike costs ~75,000-80,000 af­ter ~22,000 dis­count, from the gov­ern­ment as part of the Faster Adop­tion and Man­u­fac­tur­ing of (Hy­brid &) Elec­tric Ve­hi­cle in In­dia scheme.

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