Do multi-brand electric scooters and motorcycle dealerships make sense in India? What’s fuelling the growth of this idea? A look at it from the eyes of a multi-brand dealership founder
“There are many dealerships that are shutting down. The problem with exclusive dealerships is that a lot of these brands have low bandwidth because of the number of electric two-wheeler brands operating in India,” Manideep Katepalli, Co-Founder of BikeWo, said in an interaction with Electronics B2B.
He added that it is practically impossible for all these 250 brands to set up exclusive dealerships across the length and breadth of India. “That is why we came up with this idea of multi-EV dealerships.”
The start-up envisions the future of retail of electric two-wheelers as “quite similar” to that of mobile phones. Katepalli shared that smartphone dealerships now do not discriminate between Apple, Samsung, Oneplus, Xiaomi, Realme, or any other brand.
“This is the same that is taking place in the world of electric two-wheelers and will possibly happen in the field of electric three-wheelers as well. Right now, we are concentrated on the former,” he highlighted.
Differentiating Good Vs Average Products
Working with several electric motorcycle and scooter brands, namely Pure EV, Battre, Gemopai, Quantum, and more, this EV dealership chain, in the first year of its operations, retailed close to over 1,800 electric two-wheelers. The company says it is targeting to retail over 5,000 of these this calendar year.
“I want to keep targets realistic. We only tie up with brands who we think make products of good quality,” he said, and how is ensuring the good quality done?
He answers, “We spend a lot of time and effort in understanding the research and development (R&D) setup of a brand that wants to collaborate with us. Bikewo has a specialised team that visits their manufacturing centre before the deal is signed.”
Katepalli claims BikeWo has rejected collaboration probabilities with over a dozen original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) from India. However, he named all of them but requested not to mention them in this story for the sake of integrity.
Currently, BikeWo has 55 stores operational and says 20 more will start retailing electric two-wheelers before the end of this month. The majority of these stores are located in Tier 3,4 regions of India.
“BikeWo is present in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maha, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Tamil Nadu. In the tier 3 and 4 regions of these places, it is impossible for EV OEMs to open standalone dealerships and also offer service capabilities at the same time,” he said.
Building A Marketplace
Not present in the online space so far, the company says it’s busy building an online marketplace for retailing electric vehicles. The leads generated from the same will be passed on to the nearest dealer on BikeWo’s network.
One more interesting trend that Katepalli unearthed is the dominance of low-speed electric two-wheelers in India. “The total number of electric two-wheelers that we have retailed so far include 60% high-speed ones and 40% slow-speed ones,” he said.
For the uninitiated, low-speed electric two-wheelers, registration from the authorities or the rider is not required to possess a license. These do not go over 25km/hr.
“While the demand for high-speed electric scooters is increasing more at a faster pace than slow-speed ones, the demand for the latter is not decreasing at all,” Katepalli explained, and most of this demand is originating from tier 3,4 regions in India, and similar setups located within tier 1 cities in the country.
He added, “Elderly, women, school-going kids, and professionals who do not commute more than 20 km in a day are generating a lot of demand for slow-speed electric scooters. This segment is here to stay.”
The challenge that remains to be solved in these regions includes the availability of finance and good products. “For Ola, Ather, and TVS, it is a different game, but for all other OEMs, these challenges are equally grave,” he said.
This is probably also one of the reasons low-speed electric two-wheelers are finding more ground in these regions. The amount of downpayment required to buy a high-speed electric two-wheeler can be alternatively used to buy a slow-speed one without getting it financed.
“Most of the high-speed electric two-wheeler sales are currently originating from Tier 1 cities. The potential in all other Indian markets has been utilised because most of the products are not available there. The growth of this sector will only be driven by these regions,” Katepalli concluded.