Published: 02nd February 2021
Now you can charge your EV while shopping at your kirana store. You can thank Bengaluru start-up Charzer for it
Charzer has roped in many kirana stores that now provide charging points for electric vehicles (EVs). We find out how the start-up plans on increasing its operations even more in the coming days
Do you know that it's about 25 km from the neighbourhood of BTM Layout to the tech park ITPL in Whitefield, Bengaluru? In traffic, it'll probably feel like more. And if you are travelling by a two-wheeler Electric Vehicle (EV) and run out of charge, you'll have no option but to tow the vehicle yourself. The experience is bound to make one resent EVs. Of course, there is a bigger issue at play here — EVs versus the infrastructure needed for EVs has always been a chicken-and-egg problem. Unless there is infrastructure for charging, it is difficult to take to EVs and if one does buy it, then how long can it really be useful in the wake of zero infrastructure? So, when the founders of FAE Bikes, an EV scooter rental start-up, noted the woes of the user, they decided to start Charzer with the simple idea of adding charging stations to the already existing infrastructure of wide-spread kirana stores.
Charging point | (Pic: Charzer)
Dheeraj Reddy (27), Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal (27) and Yugraj Shukla (28) were really onto something with FAE Bikes which they started in 2016. They had facilitated rides that add up to a cumulative of one crore km. They were funded by the Government of Karnataka and were consultants for them as well. In January 2020, they were ready with their prototype of Kirana Charzer. They launched it at MOVE 2020 in London, a conference that brings together those redefining the transport industry. And within ten days, the initial batch of 200 units that they had manufactured was sold out. They received very good responses even from tea stall owners, malls, high-end restaurants, old textile shops and many others. "It's a secondary source of income for them with zero effort. All they need to do is purchase the charger, which doesn't even occupy that much space, and they get to keep 80 per cent of the revenue earned while we take a commission of 20 per cent," explains Sameer.
The kirana store manager doesn't even need to interact with the EV owner or take care of transactions. Charzer's eponymous app will take care of it via which you can even locate charging stations, book them for a particular time, pay and plan a journey accordingly. "Thankfully, kirana stores have been not just enterprising but forward-looking as well, showing belief in our product," says the alumni of NIT Raipur. This negates the problem of setting up a separate infrastructure of charging stations and is sure to stabilise the abysmal ratio of 1:6,000/7,000 with regards to the number of charging stations in India compared to the number of EVs on the road. Currently, their app has over 9,800 users and 100 monthly paying subscribers.
(L to R) Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal, Yugraj Shukla and Dheeraj Reddy | (Pic: Charzer)
But what about battery swapping stations? A few are sprouting and seem like a good alternative. "But in the long-term, there are a few issues. For example, every battery needs to be standardised no matter which manufacturer is making it. They all need to be of the same size, capacity with no iterations, which brings another set of problems altogether. And how many charging stations can one actually build from scratch?" asks Sameer. To substantiate his point, he gives us an example of Gogoro in Taiwan that develops and sells electric scooters and has battery swapping stations as well. These swapping stations are for EVs of Gogoro alone. "This solution sounds good on paper but it is a tough cookie. That is why our model of working with existing locations works out better," he says.
Looking ahead, Charzer's plan is to have one lakh on-ground charging stations in two years. They already have a major presence in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram and are planning to spread their stations even further.