Electric vehicles may be all the buzz today, but two childhood friends have been riding the wave since over a decade ago. Growing up together around 2007-08, Siddhartha Bagri and Dhawal Khullar would spend hours after school researching electric vehicles and joining forums online.
So it became a no-brainer for these two that if they started a company together, it would build electric cars.
This year, on 25 November, the duo saw 11 years of their hard work come to life in the form of their deep tech company Pravaig Dynamics’ e-SUV — the DEFY.
“In 2007-08, electric vehicle technology was just up and coming in the world. We were part of various global hobbyist groups. The electric vehicle forum had about 500-600 members from around the world and they included people from Rimac, Tesla, AC Propulsion, etc. We wanted to ensure there is a good technology for electric vehicles. We were not happy with the existing products,” explains Siddhartha Bagri to The Better India.
Siddhartha dropped out of college in his quest to build better technology. After trying out various courses for 1.5 years, he decided that the right path for him was entrepreneurship.
“I tried a bunch of different courses, ranging from science to commerce to philosophy. It wasn’t very interesting. I felt that there isn’t much education in our system after Class 12. I am a firm believer in self-education and resourcefulness. So I started studying about EV technology and waited for Dhawal to finish his automotive engineering course,” adds the 31-year-old.
In 2011, the duo launched Pravaig Dynamics. Their goal was to build an electric vehicle that solved the problems they noticed in existing technology.
What ailed the EV market in 2011?
The duo noticed three major problems.
“When we started building cars, we noticed that there was a reduced amount of ownership; lack of repairability due to the high cost of repairs; and the third, and most important thing for us, was a lack of privacy due to the presence of cameras. This leaves a poor taste in the consumer and reduces their freedom when it comes to choosing a vehicle. It also kills small repair businesses,” adds Siddhartha.
To solve these problems, they started working on prototypes. Since it started as a completely bootstrapped company, it worked on other projects to fund its research and development costs. They built some direct-to-consumer products and AI technology.
Siddhartha says that they started by building all other tech blocks required for an EV like chassis, suspension, and body technology before manufacturing their prototypes. They also manufactured batteries for electric vehicles and established a battery factory in Bengaluru.
“When we started, there was no ecosystem for EVs. We had to keep moving fast and build technology soon. We would build a prototype almost every year, learning from our mistakes and ensuring that the new ones are better,” adds Siddhartha.
And now, after building the technology and batteries, they built the DEFY in 10 months, according to the founders.
The company calls the DEFY “exceptionally performant, amazingly featured, and surprisingly rugged”.
They say that it has a 500 km range and can go from 0-100 kmph in 4.9 seconds. “It is the most sustainable and privacy-respecting electric vehicle ever. It is one of the most repairable vehicles globally,” adds Siddhartha.
They have started accepting orders and the price is Rs 39.5 lakh (ex-showroom). They will be starting deliveries in the middle of 2023. “We are at a very low cost compared to the other luxury cars in the market. We’ve also built the car keeping India’s geography and terrain. It has a high ground clearance. It costs less but does more,” says the Pravaig founder.
This ‘made-in-India’ car will be competing with the likes of the Mercedes-Benz EQC, BMW iX, Audi e-Tron 50 etc. The DEFY will also be offered a full carbon package.
Finding the light at the end of the tunnel
The company encountered several challenges in their 11-year journey.
“There are so many things to get right when it comes to building a vehicle. But the biggest challenge, to my mind, is persistence. What matters is keeping your head down and continuing to work and persevere. There is dissonance when it comes to doing difficult things and building something new. Just continue, and know that hard work is rewarded,” smiles Siddhartha.
Their goal is to make a million electric cars by 2027, and export more than half of that number. Pravaig has 180-200 employees working in R&D and hopes to hire more people in the next six months. Just like its founder, degrees don’t matter when it comes to employees.
“Education really doesn’t matter when it comes to talent. We need to create people who are self-learning, self-resourceful and self-managed. Self-education is a foundational block of a person. We need to encourage more people like that,” adds Siddhartha.
Edited by Divya Sethu, Images Courtesy – Pravaig Dynamics