Serendipity usually plays a huge role in entrepreneurship. It played an outsized role in Tarun Mehta’s journey to founding Ather Energy, easily India’s best-known electric scooter maker.

When Mehta graduated from IIT Madras, he wanted badly to become a consultant because it was where the money and aura was. But he didn’t get a job as a consultant. Then he tried to get into Harvard Business School for an MBA, but that didn’t pan out either.

Instead, he ended up at Ashok Leyland, a maker of buses and trucks. It took four months after he joined for Mehta to be allocated a computer of his own. During that time, he’d walk around and find a computer belonging to someone who hadn’t come to office. Or he’d walk through its sprawling Chennai campus and read books in its library. Of course, his salary wasn’t high by any standards.

The low salary and lack of any meaningful work allowed Mehta to drift back to the IIT Madras campus he’d graduated from. After convincing a professor of their desire to build battery packs, Mehta and his co-founder Swapnil Jain, moved to an empty hostel room to start building things.

Building hard things.

That’s the origin story of Ather Energy, the company that started out wanting to build battery packs, but ended up doing multi-year deep dives to re-imagine virtually every part of an electric scooter. This stubbornness would bring Ather Energy to the brink of death five times.

Today, Ather sells over 10,000 electric scooters in India. Next year, it wants to double that number. And then some more.

Tarun speaks at length about his journey to convince investors of his vision; doing hard things that defied common sense; building an organisation over decades; and why it takes at least three years to make a true impact at work.

If you have any questions, thoughts, suggestions, or tips, please email them to [email protected] We might not be able to reply to all of them, but we do read every single one of them.

Full Episode Transcript :

Rohin Dharmakumar

“When we started Ather, we did not have a vision of building a fantastic product. When investors would ask us as to what would be our competitive strength in an extremely entrenched auto market. Sales, service, quality, manufacturing, distribution were hardly going to be our strengths going against likes of Hero and Bajaj. 

We would weakly mumble that we were willing to build something very hard. We did not have a vision of building a product, but we knew that we were going to build something very hard.”

Do you recognise these words, Tarun?

Tarun Mehta

Yeah, this is one of my favourite blog posts that I’ve written in recent times.