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Decarbonization of Mobility in India

“If you think that the environment is less important than the economy, try holding your breath while you count your money.” – Guy McPherson

 Indian Institute of Technology – Madras (IIT-M) is a premium-engineering institute, ranked#1 by  several rating agencies.. It is home to a thriving incubation cell, which is India’s leading Deep-tech startup hub. The Incubation Cell nurtures technology ventures through their start-up phase by providing all the support necessary to help entrepreneurs establish themselves before they scale up their ventures.

I had an internship opportunity through a partnership that IIT-M has with Daimler India Commercial vehicles, to accelerate Future Mobility solutions. It provided me interesting insights into the journey of entrepreneurs and how technological institutes and leading incumbent business come together to form mutually beneficial partnerships  and solve a real world problem.

The problem they were trying to solve here was decarbonization of mobility in India. Wow! While this may sound a very lofty goal, I realized that this is how most ideas and an entrepreneurial journey starts. After all, the internal combustion engine, which is the predominant mobility solution in current times, was not invented overnight.

One of my tasks during the internship was to help organize a startup funding fest for IIT-M and Daimler to shortlist the startup ideas they would like to invest their time and resources in. What a learning experience that turned out to be! On one side, I learnt the kind of innovative ideas startups come up with and on the other side how investors decide their bets.

These were some of the startup ideas presented:

  1. Solving the last mile connectivity in a multimodal transportation network with the fleet of electric vehicles being offered as a service (Ozone Motors).
  1. Affordable retrofitting powertrain solutions for rapid adaption of smart e-autos (Konwert India Motors).
  1. Development of cost effective Hyperloop technologies that helps to enhance the revenues of various industries by solving their pain points with regards to goods movement (Tutr Hyperloop).
  1. Electric refrigeration systems for cold chain logistics vehicles independent of vehicular AC unit (Yotuh).
  1. An urban employability tech platform for EV skills and guaranteed jobs for empowering women and blue collar youth in India (LinkIT Blue Collar).
  1. Green hydrogen plant for gas station that used plasma pyrolysis of natural gas in an oxygen free environment for the production of hydrogen without CO2 emission (Tachyon Arc).
  1. Purpose built electric micro ambulance with all the required advanced life support. Built on a modular platform that can lend itself to build any 3 or 4 wheeler (Ant Mobility).

It was an amazing experience to see the young entrepreneurs solving some of the current problems in the mobility space by leveraging current technology. It was also a huge learning experience for me to see how multiple study disciplines, be it either Chemistry which is trying to come up with a lower cost and longer range battery or Information Technology which provides a platform for producers and users to come together, enabling to solve a social and business problem.

Another business lesson for me was to learn how businesses choose their bets. How do they decide which startups to invest on? This is what I learnt  goes into the investment decision making in no specific order:

  1. Business Model and their go-to-market strategy
  2. Background of co-founder and team capabilities
  3. Market potential of Business plan
  4. Innovation and uniqueness
  5. Financial Viability
  6. Scalability and growth
  7. Complementary skills and fitment with incubator’s available resources
  8. Competitive advantage over closest competitors
  9. Potential value creation for the incubation cell and the investors
  10. Most importantly, their willingness to learn

Some of my other learnings have been the grit and courage shown by young entrepreneurs to venture into unknown territories, build something from scratch and overcome failures. Also, I learnt how good leadership can resolve conflicts. I was amazed by the quickness with which decisions were taken and motivation was built when a startup showed potential. I also had a sneak peek into how startups conduct market studies, how the incubation cell formulates and creates business plans for the start-up. Last but not the least I witnessed, how the incubation cell guided startups to use design thinking for product development. Thereby, showing a structured approach to building product and business to young entrepreneurs.

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