When EFY’s Vaishali Yadav asked Mr MS Chugh, the 67-year-old founder & chairman of Aponyx Electric Vehicles, the inspiration behind his company’s name, he explained that Aponyx means the birds’ first flight in the morning. She explored more to understand how this 2017-born EV OEM is flying high after taking flight from IMT-Manesar, facing challenges and selling its EVs across India. Here are some excerpts…
Q. Could you elaborate upon the background of Aponyx EV, its offering and its business model?
A. We are into the manufacturing of electric vehicles—scooters, cycles, and motors. We are also an OEM and manufacture Indian electric parts for other EV brands. We work on a B2B and B2C model, with special attention to after-sales services. The company also provides vehicles on rent to encourage the vast middle class to transition easily.
Now, we are coming up with fast charging stations for all types of EVs including 4-wheelers and 3-wheelers to be put at every 10 kilometres. The innovation is to break the ice of charging. Currently, people cannot travel more than 100-200 km via e-cars, or over 100 km via e-scooters. What we are trying to do is set up both regular charging and fast charging stations across the national capital region (NCR). Aponyx EV has already started the installation work. We have also planned to set up charging stations at a 10 km distance on three routes: Delhi to Chandigarh, Delhi to Dehradun and Delhi to Jaipur.
Q. What has been the story behind a veteran coming up with a startup in this domain?
A. I am 67 years old and I have been an electronics engineer since my childhood. I have been in electronics since the radio line—I have repaired and developed radio, and television sets, and have picked up on new technology as and when it came. I have been working on the concept of electric vehicles for the last 12 years, since the time when only golf club carts were electric. We started off as an OEM called Aponyx Labs Pvt Ltd in 2017. We make EVs for other brands also.
Q. With what vision was the company started off? Was there any first prototype or MVP?
A. There was no need for any prototype. Because the technology has not come up as an invention, rather it was already there in foreign countries. The only thing needed was the collection and assembling of parts, i.e., where to find what stuff, how to work on those, etc. But in the last 7-9 years, I’d say electric vehicles failed because there was no lithium-ion battery to be found in India. But as Li-ion batteries came, that problem is being solved gradually.
Q. Any special offering that you’d like to highlight?
A. We have come up with a revolutionary product, Kohinoor, which is a universal charger. After over four years of R&D, we have successfully entered into the production phase of this product.
You can charge any car, any scooter, any auto, and any loader, anywhere where it has been installed and it will be powered by solar energy. It will give you voltage without any electricity connection. Mind you, cars and scooters need heavy voltage. So, our Kohinoor works like a generator and provides the needed electricity to these vehicles.
Q. Please enlighten us regarding the financial figures/ funding trends of Aponyx.
A. The brand is bootstrapped; however, we have utilized our connections to gain support from mentors and advisors who have invested their time and resources in Aponyx. The brand generates revenue from sales through its strong network of distributors spread throughout the nation and through its e-commerce website.
I cannot reveal the figures but we have never needed funding because our company policy has always been such that we take 30-50% advance as soon as we receive the order. And people always agree on looking at our quality. We don’t have to run door to door to sell our material.
Q. What kind of R&D operations are happening in India?
A. A lot of research is going on, and I’d say that after the COVID-19 pandemic, even the younger generation is working 24*7 in the same direction. At least 90% of all the products have been developed in India. And going by the pace of development, I am sure India will be ready for export by the end of 2023.
We are based out of Manesar. IMT Manesar is our main factory unit and has our company outlets in the NCR. For other parts of the country, we have gradually built a broad dealer network and our B2B business, in which our well-equipped dealers sell our product.
Q. What do you consider the USP or uniqueness of Aponyx that makes it different from other EV companies?
A. Our solid ethics and principles to provide a sustainable and profitable enterprise make us different; we believe in ‘quality over quantity.’ Our products are of top quality material, evident with minimal complaints, especially regarding batteries which is a significant concern for the other industry players. Besides the quality, our out-of-the-box after-sales services have made us the market differentiator.
Q. What have been your hiring trends? Do you hire freshers? Or do you provide any active internships in your company?
A. Yes, yes, we hire freshers and provide internships also. We give chances for free liaisoning also, and we believe that’s why we have been growing everywhere.
Q. Do you feel you could do something a better way, or made any mistakes throughout the startup journey?
A. There was little scope for mistakes as I am a self-made engineer and have a very vast experience in electronics. But even at this age, I am on the verge of learning. I believe everyone has a guru or a tutor. I made the Chinese people my guru and spent 20 days learning with them and making stuff with my own hands. When I manufactured my first two-wheeler, it was not made by only me, but I had a lot of teachings and learnings from China.
Q. What challenges do you feel were/are present in terms of EV penetration in our country?
A. There was a failure of the batteries. And that was the reason why Indians lost faith in electric vehicles. We are expecting even more challenges in the coming times as it is very difficult to beat the Indian tendency. People build trust in a product after watching their peers use the product successfully. But people themselves don’t pay attention to some simple measures that they need to follow while using an EV, like keeping it away from water-logged areas, etc. I believe the general public should be made more aware of these pointers as it’ll go a long way in promoting the adoption and use of EVs.
Q. Would you like to share some learnings and lessons for budding entrepreneurs in the field of EVs?
A. Keep a tab on quality. Don’t go for low-quality spare parts. Don’t compromise with quality. It is an EV, it has to be up to date. It has to be a quality product. Low-quality products in this field will not last for more than 6 months. In order to minimize the cost, people are using thinner wires, ‘jugaadu’ items etc. But I can assure you, a four-year-old Aponyx vehicle is still doing wonders on the roads. But all those new kids coming up with low-quality products will shut their shops soon because it is not a sustainable practice.
Q. How are you planning to expand geographically?
A. We are a pan-India company and have our network expanded from Uttarakhand to MP to Odisha to Andhra. We have already signed contracts with 3-4 countries and they have also visited our factory. Within the next month, we’ll start exporting.
Q. What kind of vendors/partners are you open to working with?
A. We are vehemently working to achieve the goal of ‘green and clean energy’. Hence, partnerships with utility providers, automakers, local governments, private foundations, and other suppliers are possible as they may involve delegated tasks and responsibilities and help us grow.
Q. What are your thoughts on AIS 038 Rev 2 and AIS 156 norms? Were they timely?
A. I believe both these norms are important as they lay the guidelines for the industry safeguarding the consumer’s interest pertaining to quality and safety.
AIS 038 Rev 2 is a crucial safety standard for electric vehicles that covers the essential requirements for electric vehicle safety; AIS 156 is important as it lays down the technical specifications for electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Both AIS 038 Rev 2 and AIS 156 norms help to establish a robust regulatory framework that ensures that electric vehicles and their charging infrastructure meet minimum safety and technical standards, which is essential for the growth and adoption of electric mobility in India.
Q. What, according to you, further needs to be done to make Indian EVs safer?
A. To make EVs safer, the industry needs to concentrate on manufacturing premium quality products considering the weather conditions and the extensive use the vehicles are put up to. The need for more awareness on the use and maintenance of the vehicles, with limited charging stations and service joints, and usage of insufficient battery power taking a toll on the EV’s health. Being a seasoned player in the electro-tech industry, we are working towards these goals.
Q. Do you intend to enter into the domain of e-cars/e-buses in the future?
A. Exploring the domain of E-cars/e-buses is not on the cards in the near future. Aponyx is more inclined to address the challenges, such as the lack of infrastructure for charging stations significantly hindering the EV industry’s growth. Further, spare parts recycling is also a challenge, and we need infrastructure. Currently, we are engrossed in researching, developing and providing solutions for the same challenges.
Q. What is the next milestone that Aponyx is looking forward to?
A. Currently, Aponyx offers a range of 2-wheeler and 4-wheeler models and bicycles, with a total of 12-14 models. The next milestone for Aponyx would be the success of the soon-to-be-released high-speed bikes and tri-bikes for the differently abled, allowing them to run a small business and earn money to create sustainable, eco-friendly solutions. In addition to the L5 model, we have high hopes for Chota Hathi, which is our heavy three-wheeler vehicle.
We are working on the recycling aspect as well. But it will take around 3-4 years for us to set a firm foot in this domain.