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On-ground hurdles could hold up EVs: SmartE CEO

Registration with RTO a huge challenge: Goldie Srivastava

While the governments at the Centre and States have taken proactive steps to encourage electric vehicles (EVs), on-ground hurdles such as high levels of corruption at the regional transport offices (RTOs) could hold back the sector, according to Goldie Srivastava, CEO of SmartE, an electric vehicle solution provider that has an exclusive tie-up with the Delhi Metro.

“We are glad to see significant steps taken by the Centre and states,” Mr. Srivastava said in an interview. “But more needs to be done in terms of structural changes on the ground. Take the example of an RTO. The mechanism has been around for 60-70 years and I wouldn’t shy away from saying they are hotbeds of corruption. Try getting a vehicle registered at an RTO without having to pay someone, and it’s a miracle! Registering a whole fleet is a huge challenge.”

SmartE has tied up with the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation to provide last-mile connectivity from the metro stations through e-rickshaws. The company, in collaboration with the DMRC, recently rolled out e-rickshaws at eight stations in Dwarka, over and above its existing services in Gurgaon and Faridabad.

“We are the last-mile partners for the entire Delhi Metro network,” Mr. Srivastava said. “We are starting in certain stations in Dwarka now. We are also the preferred partner for the Gurgaon rapid metro. We also have similar partnership with multiple RWAs in Gurgaon to provide first-mile connectivity to the stations as well.” The four-seater e-rickshaws at the stations charge ₹10 for the first two kilometres, and ₹5 per kilometre over that.

“You have several choices to pay,” Mr. Srivastava added. “You can buy a season pass for 12 rides or you can pay through any UPI wallet. The customer can also pay cash to the driver.”

The company is also working on a system where passengers of the Delhi Metro can use their metro passes to pay for the e-rickshaw services as it is part of the commercial arrangement with DMRC to integrate the two services.

Business model

According to Mr. Srivastava, the company’s fleet has seen remarkable growth since its incorporation in September 2014, and the business model is attracting erstwhile conventional auto drivers to join the e-rickshaw fleet.

“We started off with 30 vehicles in Western Delhi, which grew to 100 vehicles in about 6-8 months, and then in one year, we grew that by 10 times,” he said. “We are at close to 900 vehicles right now and plan to add 8,000 vehicles in 12-18 months and target a fleet size of 1,00,000 vehicles by 2022.”

The fleet, prior to the Dwarka rollout, has transported about 25 million people in Gurgaon and Faridabad and transports about 55,000 people every day.

“If you look at the economics of a conventional auto driver, on a given day, he does about 15-16 rides with an average wait time of 30 minutes between rides,” he said. “The revenue generation and income potential is so much more lucrative with us, that now a lot of auto drivers are coming on.

“In an auto, the ride distances and frequency are erratic,” Mr. Srivastava said. “The driver may start at Connaught Place and end up in Rajouri Gardens and might have to come back empty. In our model, we function on volume and predictable routes. The driver knows the ride will be only 5-6 km from a metro station and then back. He is able to earn much more in a 10 hour shift with us.”

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