INTERVIEW | PRANAYNA K.C. CEO AT ECO INFINITY PVT. LTD.Posted On: November 2, 2018 By : AutoLife Team
It certainly seems like the trend of EVs are catching up in the Nepalese market. However, there’s a lot of misconceptions surrounding it and the potential growth the EVs can attain is still somewhat stagnant. As of right now, we can only hope that with various companies coming up with electric vehicles, the future of EVs will be something to look forward to. One of the brands in the EV segment that has made a name for itself in only a small span of time is NIU. Here, we have a conversation with Pranayna K.C., CEO at Eco Infinity Pvt. Ltd. where we discuss on how electric scooters are shaping the future of EVs and the direction that NIU is heading towards.
DO YOU BELIEVE ELECTRIC SCOOTERS CAN REPLACE THE COMBUSTION TWO WHEELERS IN NEPAL?
Absolutely! Number one is because the government have been taking initiatives for a country that doesn’t have a lot of carbon emissions norms and we have been moving forward. Also, considering that almost 90% of our automobile imports come from India, the fact that India has promised in the global platform that they are going to go all green from 2030 so we will have no other option than to choose electric vehicles as an alternative. Not just that, but the Nepalese crowd is starting to get aware and people starting to adapt to smart technologies more. The smart technology captures the market and EVs are smart. So, there is a definitive growth in the EV sectors and maybe one day it will eventually replace combustion engines.
THERE ARE OTHER ELECTRIC TWO-WHEELER DISTRIBUTORS IN NEPAL SO HOW WOULD YOU SAY NIU STANDS OUT?
First of all, the product itself is amazing and NIU is one of the highest selling electric scooters globally. Given the global success it has had and the fact that NIU has crossed 1 Billion kilometers in two years speaks for itself. Even in the context of Nepal, right now, all of our marketing is word of mouth; people who have bought it have liked it so much that they have established a trust with the brand. Another aspect that sets NIU apart is our team, and by that, I mean if you see the work culture here you will see a lot of enthusiastic people working towards customer satisfaction.
WHAT IS NIU’S GREATEST CHALLENGE AT THIS POINT OF TIME?
One of the biggest challenges has to be the way that government policies are formulated. For instance, electric scooters have to go through road eligibility test but there is no test for petrol scooters to check their power; there are different capacity scooters to determine that but sometimes even 125cc scooter doesn’t have enough torque to tackle some of the road conditions in Nepal. Suppose we bring in a 2400-watt scooter and we go through a test and later if we bring a 3000-watt scooter, we will have to go through the same test. Of course, it’s going to be powerful but it is a hassle to keep going through the same test over an over again. Also, there isn’t clarity in the customs and people get angry that electric scooters are expensive even though it’s cheaper to import but they don’t understand cost that goes into the technology. But other than that, in terms of spare parts, we have to pay the same amount of tax as petrol scooters. As a company, it is really difficult to get qualified technicians. Even in engineering colleges, the students don’t get a hands-on training on Lithium ion batteries and we have to start from scratch by training every employ that we hire. Also, to top it off, the lack of consumer knowledge towards EV and it has been our biggest challenge to break the stereotype that people have had about electric scooters not having quality and enough power for our road conditions.
DOES NIU HAVE ANY PLANS ON BRINGING RECHARGING STATIONS TO NEPAL AND HOW LONG DO YOU THINK IT’LL TAKE BEFORE NIU BUILDS A NATIONWIDE RECHARGING NETWORK?
We have a charging station at Labim Mall within the next two months and we have also planned to establish at least 3 charging stations. A nationwide charging network is possible, but you don’t actually need one for the NIU as the batteries are removable and you can charge it anywhere. So basically, when we initially started out, we installed charging stations at Naxal, Maitighar, Durbar Marg and Labim Mall but people rarely used it. Now, what we are going to do is install a charging station in the parking lot of Labim and all you’ll have to do is just plug in and it’s completely free. Its all about making it convenient for the owners. And as for going nationwide, we are opening up at Pokhara and other cities as well but we are taking things slow to make sure that we give our best.
UP UNTIL NOW, HOW HAS THE CUSTOMER RESPONSE BEEN TOWARDS NIU?
It has actually been quite impressive. Its like the more we sell, I start gaining more faith in the brand. Customers who have actually bought it, have been really satisfied with it. Kirana is one of our best customer advocates, they are a grocery delivery company and they have already bought 4 scooters from us. Customers have been really satisfied with the features our products have and that’s why they have been giving us amazing testimonials. WILL WE SEE ELECTRIC MOTORCYCLES COMING FROM NIU? About a year ago, NIU made an electric motorcycle called Project X and the concept was showcased at EICMA. But the issue with that is it’s ridiculously expensive to maintain a quality that NIU is offering with more space to fit two people and a heavier chassis. Motorcycles are obviously heavier than scooters and will require a bigger battery which basically means that there will be a lot of cost tied to it. Eventually, once that is resolved, maybe the Project X will actually be able to cater to the market.
WOULD YOU SAY NIU SHARES THE SAME/SIMILAR VISION AND MISSION AS TESLA?
If I have to sum it up to words then the vision and mission statement of NIU is smart urban mobility. Our company, Eco Infinity, has more aspects of sustainability and patriotism in our vision. We aim to contribute to the economy of the Nepal. With NIU, the agenda is how can we impower individuals and make sustainability a part of everyone’s life. This is something that Tesla wants to do as well, so I believe that we do share similar visions.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR NIU AND WHAT MORE CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE BRAND?
We will definitely be bringing new products but what we are focusing on is to help train young people because the more well informed the people are, the more they will be aware of the product. We want to give opportunities to engineers to get hands on experience so they can be innovative and come up with new ideas. So, we are also starting an academy called NIU Academy where we will be offering online training and whoever joins us can expect to gain a huge array of knowledge and hands on training. We have even been trying to get associated with a few colleges as well with the same agenda.
BEING A FEMALE LEADING THIS COMPANY, WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES AND WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ASPIRING FEMALES?
The challenges that I have faced almost my whole life is to be taken seriously and whenever I enter a room I have to prove myself first before I even start talking about the industry or what I do. Some struggles are on a personal level as well but these challenges are good too and I love taking on challenges. As for advices, I am also a part of a career fellowship and mentor young girls and I constantly tell them to look for inspiration around themselves. Most to times, girls are told to do this and that, not to talk too much or giggle too often from a very young age. The society needs to let girls out more so they can gain more exposure and only then can expect more woman in business sectors. What I want to tell girls is that you need to work on you head and don’t focus much on how you look or what society expects from you, work on gathering more knowledge, listen to talks that inspire you and read biographies of people that you admire. The inspiration is out there, you just have to look for it.