By : RACHNA TYAGI
Meet Bangalore-based Suhas Rajkumar, 24, whose company Simple Energy, has been doing some ground-breaking work in the field of automotive design. Getting ready to launch a scooter followed by a motorcycle, Rajkumar, tells TURN OF SPEED about all that goes into a getting a product, right from envisaging it until it is manufactured and ready to be launched.
TOS: You have a degree in Architecture and you have gone and created this scooter. How did the idea come about?
SR: I have always had my passion for the automobile and have loved designing since my childhood. I feel that any problem can be solved via a design approach. My previous start-ups in graphic design solutions to starting a Robotics firm, which didn't take off, to local racing events, (with a passion towards high-end motorcycles) and to developing connections in the auto industry, everything I did led towards what I have loved. Finally, in late 2018, I decided to follow my passion for developing products in the automotive industry as there was an opportunity to develop a better Electric Vehicle (EV) and established a firm which would not only make long-range EVs but also which would set design standards. Today, we are working on the Mark 2 and wish to be known as the Apple of Electric Vehicles.
TOS: What has been the most challenging aspect in terms of design when it came to designing this scooter?
SR: I think the most challenging aspect has been about finding the balance in design and function to make it a good fit for Indian consumers. The design had to be honest and needs to evoke emotions. All this had to be done while keeping the demographics and consumers’ requirements in mind.
The scooter segments in India are predominantly ruled by the big OEMs that are into manufacturing of motorcycles. The scooters and two-wheelers are designed mostly in-house or in studios abroad. The scooters, by far, have not been given the kind of attention they deserve, and many a time, the scooter designs have been downplayed which has plagued the market with monotonous designs.
Simple Energy’s Mark 1 and Mark 2 designs have addressed these concerns and have challenged the status quo. Our Mark 2 scooter not only exudes boldness but also poise in its character. Achieving this kind of harmony is always the most challenging aspect of product design.
The positive response that the Mark 2 concept has received after its press release has assured us that we are the answer to the change that the Indian consumers have been longing for.
TOS: Evidently, you have been influenced by the American superhero, Iron Man. How have you been able to incorporate your love for this character from your childhood into your scooter's design now, and also, has it influenced your overall approach towards design?
RS: The story behind this personal attachment, is that when the first Iron Man movie came out, I was really inspired by that machine and the character itself, and ever since, I decided to be like that character who will build machines that serve a purpose for the human race.
Talking about the design inspiration, it is from the Arc Reactor that is located in the chest of the Iron Man and the eye line of the Iron Man's face. The Arc Reactor in the chest is the powerhouse and that is what we want to symbolize. When people will look at our scooter, a unique headlight design expresses or evokes the emotion of strength and power.
The clean futuristic design with a human connect of Iron Man give us the right approach as we want our scooter design to look futuristic. At the same time in order to appear natural, we have a bird which is called “India Paradise Flycatcher” and this gives us the perfect combination of machine and nature.
TOS: The EV space is a highly competitive one and there are several players in it, even in your own city, how does your product stand out?
RS: Our product is built with a lot of R&D from its motor to the BMS (Battery Management System) to the Mechanicals aspects. Everything is in-house so that makes it a quality product as EVs require a ground-up development approach. Secondly, it meant to travel 260km with a single charge and that combined with best performance figures like 0-50 in 3.1 seconds makes it the fastest scooter in India. The fast charging tech which is faster than many existing EVs and the removable battery which anyone can carry around with ease are our USP.
TOS: Designing the scooter and the motorcycle is one thing and getting it production-ready and manufacturing it is an altogether different story. How have you managed to do all of this at such a young age?
RS: Well, the company does have advisors on board who have vast experience in taking the prototype to production level. The team itself has experience on the domain so yes, there are challenges when it comes to the production model, but with the right time and expertise, it gets easier.
TOS: How has Simple Energy managed to raise funds for its projects?
RS: Currently, it is a bootstrapped firm and we have not received any external funding, but we will be closing our round any time soon of US$ 1 Million by early August.
TOS: What is your team strength and how are you looking at growing your team?
RS: At present, we are a 32-member team with three people as founding members and seven as core members. They come from experienced backgrounds and have worked in EV companies earlier. Now, we will grow our team size to 50 as we are currently hiring talented individuals who can be a part of our Simple Energy family.
TOS: Tell us about your upcoming motorcycle? How is that going to be different from the other players in the market?
RS: At present, we are still at the basic level of the prototype, it will have better range and performance and few unique points just like the Mark 2 has.
TOS: When do you plan to launch your scooter and your motorcycle?
RS: Mark 2 will be launched around Feb-March 2021 followed by a bike towards the year-end of 2021.
TOS: What is your advice for youngsters, especially the ones who're younger than you and keen to enter this space? What should they arm themselves with to fulfil their dreams?
RS: Many will tell you that "EV space is tough as it is a capital intensive business," but this shouldn't discount your passion for it. Start understanding and talking to people to grab the pain points and just slip into creating a product around the customer because at the end of the day it is these people who buy your product. Technology should revolve around the customer. Do not think much, just start working on it and believe in your vision. Gain an understanding of how the product can go from prototype to production. Also, develop a deeper understanding of the market, talk to industry experts who will mentor you and help you make wise decisions in the long run.