Electric two-wheeler startup, Ather Energy, has put its plans for overseas expansion on hold, at least for 2020. The company was in discussions in a few markets last year and were in the process of shortlisting local country partners but had to hold off all international expansion plans due to COVID-19 crisis. In a free-wheeling discussion, Siddharth Vinayak Patankar, editor-in-chief, carandbike asked Tarun Mehta, CEO and co-founder, Ather Energy, about international sales and he said that a better idea would be to focus the company's energy into holistically expanding in India.
"Let me just clarify this, we are not going international this year. Maybe next year, but not even sure of that! At some point, last year we did have serious plans. We were in active conversations in a few international markets. We were shortlisting our local country partners and then COVID happened and we kind of realised that the amount of effort we are putting in there was significant and the payoffs were really in the future and we have so much work to do in domestic expansion not in 3,4,5 but like in 10, 15, 30, 50, 100 cities and our energy is better spent opening up the Indian markets so we decided to put on our international plans for hold this year. We will only pick it up sometime next year and given that opening a country takes a long time, I would realistically expect international sales to begin like in 2022, not before that," Mehta said.
The Bengaluru-based company will begin manufacturing from its new Hosur plant in December 2020 and is looking to expand operations in new cities across India along with focussing on exports. The new manufacturing facility in Hosur will have a production capacity of 100,000 units per year and if need be, the company can scale up the production to 500,000 units per year as well. It will be the hub for manufacturing the Ather 450X electric scooter.
The company recently announced a referral program for existing customers in a bid to entice new buyers. The company will offer monetary benefits to new and existing owners up till ₹ 2,500 when current owners share a referral code with their family, friends and acquaintances to purchase the Ather 450. The new program is currently live in Bengaluru and Chennai, but we expect the company to extend the offer in other cities as well, as it expands operations later in 2020.
The company is also securing funding in order to build up capacity and for operations expansion along with research and development. Hero MotoCorp invested ₹ 84 crore in Ather, increasing its stake from 31.27 per cent to 34.58 per cent in Series C round of funding in July 2020. In fact, Hero, the world's biggest two-wheeler company had invested ₹ 205 crore in 2016 at the Series B round of funding.