Picture this: Tesla’s infamous autopilot mode in Indian roads, trying to navigate crater-sized potholes, wayward dogs and cows, and stuntmen on bikes. One wrong move would cause things and people to fly in the air, straight out of a blockbuster Bollywood film. Jokes aside, India has been pretty late to the electric vehicle (EV) party, but now that the rEVolution is here with Tesla’s entry, Bengaluru-based start-up Charzer will definitely get busier.
Founded in June 2020 by second-time entrepreneurs Dheeraj Reddy, Sameer Ranjan Jaiswal, and Yugraj Shukla, the start-up offers smart, compact IoT-powered EV chargers to help your friendly neighbourhood stores double as charging stations. Aptly named ‘Kirana Charzer’, the product is a zero-interaction solution, which means you do not need to interact with the shop owner to charge your EV at his store. “Everything is controlled through the app. The shop owner need not even be present at the location,” explains Jaiswal.
The trio’s first venture in the EV space was FAE Bikes, an electric bike-sharing platform founded in 2016. In that journey, they realised the EV ecosystem in India was missing one crucial component — charging stations. “Many people were not investing in EVs because of the inaccessibility of charging stations. So, we brought in a few other co-founders for FAE and decided to concentrate on Charzer,” shares Jaiswal.
The idea was simple: make EV chargers available in every nook and corner of a city — general stores, cafes, restaurants, malls, or even tea stalls. In 2019, the team first built a prototype of a DC charging station focusing on two-wheeler EVs. Costing around Rs.40,000 per unit, it didn’t find any takers. “So, we kept refining our product till we had something that even kirana store owners could afford to take up,” says Jaiswal.
At Rs.10,000, the ‘Kirana Charzer’ can be easily installed outside a shop and comes with an in-built smart meter. The store owner can track utilisation, and electricity consumption, and switch the charger on/off, all using one app. According to the founders, if the charger is used for six hours per day, the owner can earn Rs.4,000 in a month.
With an 80:20 split, the location owner gets the lion's share of the charging stations' revenue. “We also reimburse the electricity expense,” adds Jaiswal. Meanwhile, Charzer has rolled out a subscription plan of Rs.250 per month on the customer-facing side, which allows EV owners 15 charging sessions of 45 minutes to one hour each.
Currently, 50 such devices have already been set up in Bengaluru, Delhi, Pune, and Hyderabad. The start-up is working with a Chennai-based manufacturer to roll out around 1,500 units per month. With added focus on advertising, Jaiswal says that they have started receiving enquiries for more orders and expect to set up 10,000 orders by end of FY22.
A study by CEEW-Centre for Energy Finance states that the EV market could be worth nearly $206 million in the coming decade if India achieves its 2030 EV ambition —70% of all commercial cars, 30% of private cars, 40% buses, and 80% two and three-wheeler sales would be electric. To capitalise on this opportunity, the start-up has raised around Rs.15 million in funding and is looking forward to working closely with manufacturers, fleet owners, and the government to set up charging stations across India sustainably.
It will definitely be a fund ride ahead.