Electric mobility is in full gear as India’s electric vehicle (EV) market is pacing to grow at an annual rate of 90 per cent targeting to touch 150 billion dollars by 2030. The estimates made by Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) look promising as more startups and giants such as Maruti, Tata, and others are heavily investing in the sector, thereby contributing to its boost.
Though such growth has become evident in the past couple of years, Shreyas Shibulal, son of Infosys co-founder SD Shibulal, seems to have anticipated the potential in the EV sector long ago.
Thanks to his experience at Tesla in the USA, he could gauge the potential of the Indian EV market and contribute his bit by helping the industry flourish with the support of investors. Today, his company has raised a corpus fund of Rs 150 crores that supports the growth of the EV market.
Creating a Favourable Ecosystem
A postgraduate in embedded systems, Shreyas says, “I have always felt passionate about the automobile industry. And a brief stint with Tesla inspired me to explore possibilities in the EV sector. I wanted to build something in India on similar lines that would improve the EV ecosystem in India.”
He adds, “The rise of EVs is inevitable considering the worsening effects of climate change and skyrocketing fuel prices. However, to nurture the EV market, it needs to build a favourable ecosystem and accelerate its growth.”
“To achieve the same requires all players to collaborate and put concerted efforts to make EVs a reality in India,” the 30-year-old adds.
For this purpose, he established Micelio Mobility in 2019, which enables innovation in clean energy and a thriving environment-friendly mobility ecosystem. “The EV sector is comparatively at a nascent stage, and Micelio Mobility forays in offering to fund, testing facilities and crucial support that can provide support at multiple levels. In simpler terms, we act as a catalyst for disruptive electric mobility solutions with a clear social impact,” he says.
Shreyas explains that the startup reaches the objectives through its two entities. “The Micelio Fund functions as a commercial venture capital fund to invest in scalable and sustainable clean mobility solutions. The other entity, Micelio Discovery Studio, acts as an ecosystem creator to foster innovations by enabling access to startups with state of the art testing facilities at affordable rates. We also touch upon business developments among other aspects,” he notes.
So far, the company has invested in five startups – Cell Propulsion, Sheru, RACEnergy, ElectricPe, and ePlane.ai and has over 100 organisations working in tandem to groom the EV ecosystem.
Sharing about how the company identifies startups for potential investments, Shreyas says, “We follow the same structure, like any other institutional VC fund and invest in mobility startups that are in the early stage of their lifecycle — Pre-Seed to Series A companies. We have developed an extensive network that serves as a proprietary pipeline of startups approaching us. There are a variety of startups that we look at that range from OEMs, infrastructure providers, component suppliers and mobility-related service providers. These need not be exclusively EVs. We are also open to investing in aviation, drones, alternative fuels, maritime transportation or space tech if they promise a significant impact on the climate.”
He adds, “Though we don’t measure any impact, it is important that our startups show the potential to commit to mitigating the carbon emissions contributed by the mobility sector.”
Citing an example, Shreyas says, “The first startup we invested in was Cell Propulsion. We were impressed with the company’s commitment to electrify commercial vehicle fleets, especially vehicles having one-ton payload capacity as they are one of the highest contributors to carbon emissions.”
The other aspect of the startup was that the team was technically sound. “They have a team of ISRO scientists, having expertise in internalising resource efficiency and using lean methodologies that have a potential to influence significant impact in India’s fight with climate change,” he says.
Besides assisting in investments and funding, the company helps startups with other support. “A startup requires capital, customer and community. We handhold the startups by assisting them with an extensive network, which helps raise capital and facilitate networking. It eventually helps them grow and attract customers by securing strong partnerships,” he says, adding, “The process has to lead to forming an EV community, where all stakeholders bridge gaps and help the startups flourish together.”
His initiative has started showing the required impact on startups.
Nakul Kukar, CEO at Cell Propulsion, says, “We came to know about Shreyas’s initiative through the public announcement made by the company. Since we both have a base in Bengaluru, we decided to meet and explore a collaboration. The company helped us raise money with Series A funding via equity. It helped us get our product from the pilot stage and develop it into a commercially viable vehicle. It also helped us generate revenue for the company.”
A Long Way Ahead
Speaking about raising their corpus, he says, “In 2019, we raised funds with the support of my family. We also received over 400 applications that helped create an extensive database and portfolios of investors. The fund was invested in startups to help them grow.”
He claims the fund is one of India’s first seed funds exclusively dedicated to enabling innovation in clean energy and conceiving a sustainable mobility ecosystem. “Starting ahead of the curve helped us receive much-needed traction from the investors,” he adds.
Besides the journey covered so far, Shreyas says the EV sector has many more miles to complete.
“EVs are still in their early days, and at this stage, collaboration is as important as competition. There are many pieces to the puzzle, and the more that companies communicate and collaborate, the faster the pieces can come together. Such instances can lead to tangible benefits such as standardising the component designs. But from a broader perspective will hasten the speed of progress,” he says.
Shreyas says another challenge is that the Indian VC ecosystem is still in the process of learning about investing in mobility and climate tech. “The situation limits the number of credible investors available for our portfolio companies as we are only early-stage investors. Unless later stage investors take more interest in the sector, it will be demanding to build momentum,” he says.
Despite the gaps, Shreyas ensures promising growth for the sector.
“We have seen how EV startups are brimming with energy and excitement about building the future. With the brightest minds at their disposal, these startups manifest creative ways to solve problems with imaginative and well-designed solutions. It is precisely the innovative mindset that is required to drive the EV revolution. With some support, these startups can help shape the future of mobility in India,” he says.
Edited by Yoshita Rao