Inspired by his son's school project, Hyderabad's Prashanth Mamidala launched a startup that makes affordable kits to turn normal cycles into electric cycles.
This article has been sponsored by Wingify Earth.
It all started when Abyudh Mamidala, a Class 8 student from Hyderabad, returned home from school one day with the news of his school’s upcoming science fair. He needed a novel project idea for the fair. On hearing this, his father Prashanth Mamidala suddenly grew excited, because he had an idea that he had been mulling over for quite some time.
Speaking to The Better India, the software engineer says, “I travel 30 to 40 km to and from my office every day. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this. Electric vehicles are a boon for commuters to have to deal with increasing fuel costs, but they are costly,” he rues.
“They can cost up to Rs 1 lakh and more, making it impossible for the common people to use them.” Having always been keen to do something in green technology, Prashanth found his son’s science project the perfect opportunity to test the waters before diving right in.
The project idea he came up with in August 2022 was simple albeit revolutionary — turning a bicycle into an electric vehicle.
“But within a month, by September 2022, I had launched my startup ‘Mamidala e-bikes’ which now sees enthusiastic customers from across the country,” Prashanth says.
An electric cycle business born from a science project
As Prashanth and Abyudh began ideating on the project, they decided that the best thing to start with was an old cycle lying at home. Clueless about how to proceed, the father-son duo began watching YouTube videos on mechanics. Prashanth even reached out to a friend who was an expert.
“Coming from a software engineering background, initially it was tough for me to understand the EV market and the specifics – how the battery works, how to fix the motor if it stopped working – everything was new to me,” he says. “We did a lot of experimentation in August 2022 and within a month we had created a basic prototype.” In the process, he adds with a laugh, they ended up burning a lot of controllers trying to understand what connects the cycle and the battery.
After multiple trials of turning the cycle into an electric one, the final design was ready, within weeks.
The cycle, Prashanth says, comprised of a 250W motor, an electric brake system, a headlight, an electric lock, a charging port, an accelerator, a controller, a chain shaft and a freewheel.
These parts made a kit that could be attached to an ordinary bicycle to turn it into an electric vehicle.
The next step was to test it out.
Prashanth recounts that the first time he took the cycle out for a ride, several people on the street stopped him, asking what this unusual bicycle could do. This, he says, sparked the idea of a startup in him.
“‘Why not turn this project idea into a business plan?’ I thought to myself,” recounts Prashanth.
A trip to Ludhiana, the hub of cycle manufacturing
Prashanth recounts that it was cumbersome trying to source motors, batteries etc. from shops in Hyderabad while trying to optimise the basic design. “Our initial plan was to source cycles from local garages and remodel them to create electric vehicles, just as we had done for the project. But it was a long-drawn-out process.”
“In addition, the look and feel of the cycles weren’t as I expected,” he adds.
So towards the end of August 2022, Prashanth made a trip to Ludhiana in Punjab, the hub of bicycle manufacturing, where he could outsource the remodelling.
“We wanted the battery to be in a specific location so that it wouldn’t come in the way of the user while riding. We also wanted the motor fixed firmly. They produced a batch of these cycles as per my requirements,” he says.
Soon, the first batch of 100 cycles was ready to hit the market. Although the idea was unique, Prashanth says there were several other factors to be kept in mind while designing the bikes.
“We wanted an affordable, easy-to-handle product which would cater to users who needed to travel as much as 15 km daily. Since it is a bicycle, even if the battery runs out, one can ride it like a usual cycle,” he says.
The electric bicycle which retails for Rs 25,000 to Rs 38,000 includes a 350W motor, a 36 V and a 7.5 A battery which gives a 25 km range.
There are different models as well, says Prashanth. “The one designed for women and college girls is lightweight and costs Rs 23,000 and has a range of 25 km, while the one for delivery persons has a range of 100 km and costs Rs 38,000.”
“We got to know that these boys spent Rs 400 a day on fuel, whereas with our bicycles, the cost per day is Rs 10. The difference is massive,” he says.
Meanwhile, the idea secured first place at the science fair for Prashanth’s son, and Abyudh will now move on to the inter-school level.
“All my teachers and staff praised my father for his work and would ask me for a ride on the cycle,” Abyudh adds.
Mamidala has scaled up over the past few months and manages to sell 20 cycles every month. Prashanth says they are also in the process of setting up their own manufacturing unit so that the end-to-end processing can be done in Hyderabad instead of outsourcing it.
Edited by Asha Prakash