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Monday, 11 July, would have been a day like any other in the narrow lanes of Sitapuri, a residential colony in the western part of Delhi. That evening, however, saw a fire break out, leaving behind “shocked” occupants who eventually left, a charred and shuttered house, and a company name board with a rather big hole in the middle of it—Battery Smart. 

The family that lived in the building used the ground floor to set up a franchise of the battery swapping company. The space had about 10-12 batteries that e-rickshaw drivers who operated in the area would swap. It was located just a few metres away from a larger franchise on the main road, and mostly handled the additional demand that the former couldn’t cater to. 

The small family enterprise was one of the many battery swapping stations operating on a franchise model in the Delhi-National Capital Region (NCR). Swapping stations have sprung up in parking lots, people’s homes, kirana (mom-and-pop) stores, and even shacks. These franchises mostly target e-rickshaw drivers. It’s a key segment—e-rickshaws require smaller batteries, have lower costs, and minimal downtime. India’s Vahan 4.0 database, a centralised portal of vehicles maintained by the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways, shows that Delhi is home to over 100,000 e-rickshaws, many of them unregulated unregulated The Hindu HC pulls up Delhi govt. over regulation of auto, e-rickshaws Read more  and lacking fitness certificates.

Battery Smart, which has a network of over 200 stations in the Delhi-NCR region and calls itself India’s largest swapping player, runs all of its outlets as franchises. It recently closed a $25 million funding round at a $121 million valuation, with US-based investment powerhouse Tiger Global leading the charge. 

The company gives franchise owners assets, training, onboards them on their mobile app, and also redirects customers to their locations. “We don’t take real estate, deploy human resources, or figure out electricity expenses. We are more like an Airbnb model,” Pulkit Khurana, the co-founder of Battery Smart, tells The Ken.

Smaller rivals such as Sheru and Chargeup, too, operate most of their stations on this model and mostly cater to the e-rickshaw segment. The latter raised raised Entrackr Chargeup raises $2.5 Mn in pre-Series A round Read more  $2.5 million in its pre-series A funding round in February, while Sheru raised an undisclosed undisclosed DQ India https://www.dqindia.com/e-mobility-startup-sheru-raises-pre-series-venture-catalysts-micelio/ Read more  amount in its pre-series A round in September 2021.

AUTHOR

Shruti Sonal

Shruti is a Delhi-based reporter who looks at India's clean energy ecosystem through the lens of the intersection between businesses, policy and environment. She has previously worked with Reuters and Outlook Business.

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