The black motorcycle looks mildly imposing. Partly because of its muscular, sporty stance and largely because I haven’t driven a motorcycle for nearly two decades. Overcoming my unease, I get on it and press a button. It instantly comes to life with a low-key growl.
“There’s nothing you need to do with your feet, both the brakes are on the handles,” someone tells me. I look down to confirm, and sure enough, there’s neither a brake pedal nor gearshift on either side. Instead, there are just two footrests. Reassured, I rev the throttle and the engine responds with a louder growl.
Except, there is no engine.
Because I’m in Gurugram trying out the Revolt RV 400, India’s first all-electric motorcycle. I take a spin and find the bike surprisingly well-balanced and planted enough to make me forget my two-decade-long lack of practice.
I park the bike and look around it. If there’s no engine, what was the sound I heard? I could’ve sworn it was the engine, from the way it rose, ebbed and modulated based on my throttle actions.
“Oh that, that’s a bike tone,” says Rahul Sharma, the founder of Revolt. Sharma was one of the four co-founders of Micromax, once a wunderkind in India’s smartphone space but increasingly at sea in a market dominated by Chinese brands.
A “bike tone”?
The sound came from an onboard speaker synced to the throttle. It wasn’t from the engine, because well, there’s no engine.
“We’ll have downloadable bike tones, just like ring tones. We’ll also allow developers to create and upload their own tunes through an app store. You can have a new sound for your bike every day,” says Sharma.
“The current auto industry is like a feature phone. The customer relationship ends with the sale. But the future will be like a smartphone, where the customer relationship starts with the sale,” he adds.
Bike tones are just a small part of Revolt’s plans to gatecrash into the massively lucrative market for motorcycles in India.
The motorcycle opportunity
A casual glance around at one of India’s ubiquitous traffic gridlocks is evidence enough that India is a two-wheeler-crazy country. It’s more than just anecdotal though—of the 25 million vehicles sold in India last year, over 80% (21 million) were two-wheelers. That makes India the world’s largest two-wheeler market.
Motorcycles—a veritable cultural phenomenon in the Indian subcontinent—make up 65% of the two-wheeler pie. For every scooter sold in India, two bikes are sold. When it comes to electric vehicles though, the situation couldn’t be more different.