EVolve 2022: Industry needs to focus on steps to make reliable products, says Ather’s Nilay Chandra


The electric vehicle (EV) space in India is heating up with companies spending big money to grab the attention of curious consumers. Bengaluru-based mobility startup Ather, which recently launched the new Ather 450X in the Indian electric two-wheeler segment, is eyeing the leadership position in the category.

In an exclusive interaction with Storyboard18, Nilay Chandra, VP-Scooter Business at Ather Energy, talks about its evolving marketing strategy, decoding the EV customer and solving the negative perception associated with the EV category.

Here are edited excerpts:

How has your marketing strategy evolved over the past few months? What has been your initial learning in terms of what kind of marketing is working and what is not working so far?

Right now, we are in a full scale-up phase. Our brand is known to a lot more people, we have moved to a pan-India approach, and gone mainstream by adopting TV and print in the last one year. We want Ather to be considered like any other scooter company that has been there for decades. This year, we have realised that we are leaders in the EV category and we need to be perceived that way by consumers. Hence, we have exposure in IPL even in regional markets where we have associated with Indian Super League (ISL), Tamil Nadu Cricket League.

Sports is a means to reach our TG. Coincidentally, post-COVID, a lot of sporting events have had high viewership of a core SEC A/B, which is why it has become a vehicle of preference for us. Though our mainstream campaigns continue, sports adds a layer of salience and engagement for us.

Which media platforms work the best when it comes to promoting EVs in India?

What really works for us is our community, influencer and auto industry engagements. We are able to engage with them in a manner which is very different from the category. Within paid mediums, video content has built a lot more traction for us in the last two years. Within that, regionalisation has given us way better results. Content which is made for the geography based on the locales of the geography and which is contextual is picking up traction. OTT, digital, TV and print as a mix has been extremely useful for us.

How is it different from conventional auto marketing and advertising?

Owing to the fact that electric vehicles (EV) is a new category the consumer’s expectations from it based on how they live their life today vis-a-vis the expectation from the existing brands is from the perception they have built over the years. Consumers expect that the brands coming from the EV category will speak the language of today and not build on the language of yesterday. These expectations are in terms of media channels, the kind of content being put out, how relevant it is and how exclusive it is.

Consumers also expect us to understand that they do not know everything about the EV category so education becomes way more important. There is a lot of education oriented marketing happening in this category some of which can be paid. For instance, our retailers have become the education creators to even address anxieties that consumers might have related to rain or reliability for instance. A leader brand needs to take care of all this.

Who is essentially an EV consumer? What makes them tick, their desires, preferences and beliefs?

Gone are the days when people would look for EV scooters for low-cost option or low-speed option which doesn’t require registration. Every scooter buyer is an electric scooter customer who is futuristic, not settling for average products and has the willingness to try something new.

Early EV adopters are more aware consumers, they have the ability to discern something knowledgeably that is new. We have seen consumers who are heavy riders and are willing to try superior features offered by EVs. People who want performance are looking at EVs seriously including motorcycle riders.

But there are many challenges facing brands. What are the key challenges in your view? 

My biggest challenge is I don’t have enough scooters to supply to our potential customers. There is momentum and demand but unfortunately because of the COVID-led disruptions, the war and the electronic equipment supply hurdles we have not been able to meet the demand of the scooters. While there were consumers willing to buy an EV the industry did not have enough stick to meet that demand.

At this stage, the EV industry requires good reliable products. Consumers have a very high benchmark on reliability and trust for their automobile manufacturers. I think while we had a great journey on delivering reliable and consistent products I don’t think that is true about consumer’s perception about the category.

We need people in the category who are as focused on the quality, reliability and consistency That would be the second biggest enabler to getting way higher EV adoption. Awareness about charging infrastructure is another critical challenge.

When consumers want to adopt a category because the products are better, especially in a category where families are going to use it and deeply linked to their livelihood as it is related to the commute, I think reliability of a product becomes fundamental.

Rather than pointing fingers at how things are blown up in the EV category which might be true, the industry needs to focus on measures to make reliable products. Once consumers see evident action being taken by all players then half of the problem will be solved and then we could do myth busting exercises. At this stage, there’s no substitute to having good reliable products with an intent to be industry for a longer haul and not running after selling certain volumes.