nexShakti: Kapila's Inspiring Journey of Being an EV Manufacturer

  • Swati Deshpande
  • 28-Mar-2022
Do you believe that Electric Vehicles (EV) are the future of mobility? Are you aware about the various challenges EV startups may face? Are you aware of the opportunities available in the EV segment? Read on to know how Kapila Soni, Managing Director & CEO, Croyance Automotive established a successful electric vehicles venture.

Croyance Automotive will be launching its electric light commercial vehicle soon. Behind this achievement is a journey, which was not a cakewalk for this woman entrepreneur who has neither professional background nor any legacy in the sector. Narrating the story, Kapila Soni, Managing Director & CEO, Croyance Automotive said, “My qualification is MA Ed and I come from a teaching background. However, I always had an inclination towards automobiles. Luckily, my husband shared the same passion. He was a visionary, who had immense knowledge on EVs. As a result, we quit our jobs to establish Croyance. Automotive in 2015.” Although establishing an EV venture was a novel idea then, the couple foresaw the momentum EVs would gain eventually.

Why did the couple choose to enter the light commercial vehicles segment instead of e-Scooters or three-wheelers, which have more popularity? Answering this, Kapila said, “In 2015, the EV technology was still at its nascent stage. Electric scooters, three-wheelers and buses were being introduced gradually. We thought that electric commercial vehicles would set us apart. Hence, we decided to introduce 800 kg electric Light Commercial Vehicle (LCV) with the range of 150 km for intracity movements.”

The decision turned to become a wise one. Although COVID-19 severely impacted the demand for LCVs globally, it is now picking up drastically post-pandemic. According to a report, increase in industrial activities and rise in e-Commerce are key contributing factors for this surge in demand. Additionally, the Indian government’s emphasis on electric mobility is expected to boost the demand for electric LCVs.

What Were the Challenges?

Setting up a manufacturing unit is a humongous task. The first and foremost challenge that the couple faced was arranging finances. Voicing her concerns, Kapila said, “Since we did not have any entrepreneurial background and credit history, we were unable to seek financial support from banks and other financial institutions. We emptied our savings and sought help from friends and relatives. However, now the situation is changing. There is an immense push from the government towards EVs. As a result, seeking support from the government as well as financial institutions has become fairly easy. We have even managed to get financial assistance from investors.”

Just when Kapila thought everything was running smoothly, and they would be able to roll out the first LCV as per the schedule, the company hit yet another hurdle due to the first wave of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdown. The most challenging part of the lockdown was keeping employees’ morale high. “On one hand employees feared salary cuts and lay-offs, investors were worried about their returns,” said Kapila.

Despite the odds, Kapila led from the front. “Thanks to the lean structure of the team, no employee was laid off. This boosted their morale. We resumed work as soon as the lockdown restrictions were eased. It in turn gave confidence to investors to stay with us,” she added.

In the second wave of the pandemic, Kapila lost her husband and business partner to COVID-19. “It was tragic. However, I had decided that I will not let our company and employees down in any circumstance. He charted the way forward for the company. Now I need to ensure that we roll out LCVs that suit the market conditions,” she said.

What Are the Future Plans?

Croyance Automotive's 800 kg Electro e-LCV will be seen on the Indian roads soon. Next, the company plans to increase the capacity of the vehicle and launch the next version thereafter. "While we are at the phase of launching the first vehicle, we have already started working on the next one that will possess improved range, capacity and other advance features. We are constantly evolving and aiming at achieving newer heights," said Kapila, adding "Being a startup, it is important for the company to innovate constantly. As the company has to stay relevant and competitive, Research and Development (R&D) is our area of focus."

Apart from battery management, new-age technologies such as connected vehicles, Cloud, etc. are revolutionising electric mobility. Kapila said that her company is also investing in technology to keep up with the changing times. "The tracking system can easily be integrated with the business owners' supply chains. Additionally, the system also monitors load on the vehicle." This feature is especially important to avoid overloading that may hamper the range of the vehicle.

Battery after life is yet another area of concern in the EVs sector. Although EVs are an environment-friendly alternative, batteries pose an environmental hazard after life. What is Croyance's plan to dispose batteries? Speaking on this Kapila said, "We are in talks with a few Indian vendors who deal with battery recycling and reusing."

What Advice Would You Like to Offer to Other Entrepreneurs?

According to Kapila what keeps her going is the attitude of never giving up. "Despite challenges you cannot let your company down. A never give up attitude will allow you to find a way forward."

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