YATRI motorcycles
A REVOLUTIONISED JOURNEY

Yatri Motorcycles is a team of young engineers who are aiming to reinvent urban mobility. They have spent the past eighteen months working on Project Zero, an electric motorcycle in the style of a café racer. With Project Zero, their focus has been in building a no-compromise motorcycle that showcases the benefits of using an electric powertrain. In the words of Ashim Pandey, the founder of Yatri Motorcycles, “We are a Nepali brand and are viewed with this stereotypical lens of cheap, low-quality products. We are here to break that mould.” Their team comprises of Electronics and Electrical engineer Krishna Prasad Shrestha, Embedded Systems Engineer Sulav Lal Shrestha, Mobile Application developer Sharthak Sharma Poudel, Mechanical Engineer Kanishka Suwal, Mechanical Engineer Ashesh Shrestha and Batsal Pandey who looks after the strategic planning and business development of Yatri Motorcycles.

HOW DID YATRI MOTORCYCLES COME INTO BEING?

The journey of Yatri Motorcycles officially started in December of 2017. However, the initiation was made way back in 2016. Getting to the backstory, until 2016, I had no plans of setting a startup. However, I was always passionate about being part of a great design team. I was very lucky during my masters programme when I got to work with Donkervoort’s design team. With what I have observed and learnt there, it was always at the back of my mind that if I could meet people sharing the same passion as me, this entire thing could be done back home in Nepal. In the summer of 2017, I decided to make the leap. I announced to my family that I wanted to come back home to start designing an all-electric, high performance motorcycle. It was a slight problem to convince them but eventually, around September, I returned home. I got the company registered in December, did my homework and a team finally came together in June 2018, and here we are!

WHAT INSPIRED YOU FOR PROJECT ZERO?

The inspiration for Yatri Motorcycles is the vision to reinvent urban mobility. We want to do this with Project Zero. Technology is ever changing and we are beginning to see that electric vehicles are fundamentally better than combustion engine vehicles. A handful of companies like Tesla, Rimac and Zero Motorcycles are defining what modern electric vehicles’ potential holds. But the local market trend is quite disheartening; majority of the products lack quality, offer limited range and power, are flimsy and does not look good. I was very lucky that during my undergraduate studies, I spent two years working on electric cars, therefore I knew what potential my idea held. All I needed was people open to this idea. The baseline was to build “an electric motorcycle where users had to make zero compromise and are better than the existing ones”. We wanted to create a product that caters to not only the environmentalists but especially those who ultimately care about owning an inspiring product.

WE BELIEVE THE PARTS ARE ASSEMBLED IN NEPAL. WHERE DO THE AUTOMOTIVE PARTS COME FROM?

This is something people often misunderstand. We do not simply assemble these parts in Nepal. We design and engineer them in-house, so these parts actually start in our computers, except for a few specialised components like tires, brake calipers, rear suspension, and front forks. The whole automotive industry depends on the supply chain for these components. Even top companies like BMW and Audi get their components from suppliers like Brembo. We follow the same model and have established technical partnerships with varioustier-1 suppliers who work with the best. The important design elements are controlled here by our in-house team while we collaborate with automotive suppliers for off the shelf components.

Coming back to designing and engineering, even though a hundred percent of the design is done here, not all the parts are manufactured in-house. We have limited production resources at the moment. For instance, we make use of a lot of complex parts that use 5-axis CNC machines for production. These machines are very expensive which makes it infeasible for us to manufacture these components ourselves at this stage.

WHAT ARE/WERE THE CHALLENGES INITIALLY WHEN THE CONCEPT OF YATRI MOTORCYCLES WAS PUT INTO CONCRETION?

The initial challenge was my family. After I told about my decision, my sister called me to the US to convince me out of it. She and my brother-in-law knew quite a few people in the automotive industry there. Maybe I was too naive, but I had a strong belief that if I can gather three or four people, we could at least build a prototype.

The next challenge was when I returned home. I was told that the government proccess to set up the company was tedious and lengthy. On the contrary, it was not difficult at all. They were, in fact, very supportive in the setup process. But later, when I had to apply for more and more licensing stuff, it started getting more and more troublesome.

But the biggest challenge I’d say is the lack of support from the local industry. There is no other company like Yatri Motorcycles or strong manufacturing industry with core engineering knowledge. So either we’d have to be vertically integrated doing all of the work or outsource some processes overseas. However, we embraced this problem as an opportunity and took on the challenge by creating our own in-house solutions to a lot of problems. For example, we needed an industrial oven with very sophisticated control systems to fabricate our carbon fibre parts. Importing was not an option and we did not have manufacturers or even dealers bringing in these composite curing ovens. Instead, our design team fabricated such an oven within a week and we have been making composite parts in-house since then.

WILL THE CONSUMER VARIATION OF PROJECT ZERO BE AVAILABLE OR IS IT JUST THE PROTOTYPE?

Right now it is just the disclosure of a concept, Project Zero V2.0, our second prototype. Getting it production-ready will involve getting approval and certifications from respective authorities, which is something we’ve begun working on. For the unveiling event, we plan to get people signed up for pre-orders for the first production batch of Project Zero. We will manufacture 50 limited-edition Project Zero in 2020.

WHAT SETS YATRI MOTORCYCLES APART FROM ITS COMPETITORS?

The product is fundamentally different, we are building electric motorcycles. The market has seen electric scooters but hardly any electric motorcycles. Yatri Motorcycles aspires to be the best of what riders want and need, aesthetically and performance wise. And most importantly, what sets us apart is our second-to-none customer service. I started riding motorcycles when I was in sixth standard, and since I was in ninth standard, I have been riding my own motorcycle. What I learnt over the years is that once the bike is off from the showroom floor, it’s all your responsibility. You’d have to take care of everything from thereon whether it involves servicing the bike or resolving an issue. We want to change that with Yatri Motorcycles. With the reimagined user interface and digital capability that the P-0 boasts, we want Yatri Motorcycles to be that seamless integration into your digital lives.

As a part of this goal, we are working on Yatri Hub – first-in-class data ecosystem designed to empower our users with real-time data to make sure they are always connected to what matters. The user can set up bike servicing appointments, get reminders and if the user is too busy to make it to the appointment, they can opt for a pickup service. All of the work that is done to your bike and its cost will be archived in your app which you can review at any time. In short, we want to change the customer service in this domain.

HOW DO YOU PLAN TO MARKET YOUR PRODUCTS? WHAT ARE THE STRATEGIES?

Truthfully, we have spent relatively little time deciding our marketing strategy. We are all full-time engineers here and for the past two years we have been focused on designing the product rather than selling the product. But what can be assured is we do not plan to be traditional about it. We’ll have our official flagship stores as distribution channels.

WHAT ARE THE FUTURE PLANS FOR YATRI MOTORCYCLES?

From early 2020, we’ll start production of 50 limited edition Project Zero motorcycles. Besides this, we will be focusing on our core competency, expanding our production team, conducting high-level research and working on an electric powertrain and bringing in more and more processes in-house.

In the long run, there are bigger plans. Yatri Motorcycles is a division of Yatri Design Studio. We see ourselves as a core tech company and not just a motorcycle manufacturer. In ten years, it could be possible that we’d be making more exciting products.

WORDS BY ABHIGYA SUBEDI

PHOTOS BY SARAS STHAPIT SHRESTHA

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