Alumnus Charging into the India’s EV Future with Skills Sharpened in Campus Programs

Monday, November 28, 2022
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Computer engineering and engineering management alumnus Anirudh Narayanan is co-founder/CEO of a company in India that’s introducing innovative electric vehicles to improve the country’s climate and way of life.

Anirudh Narayanan came to Rose-Hulman from his native country of India with aspirations to use the computer engineering and engineering management skills he would learn to make a difference in his homeland.

He’s well on the way toward achieving that goal as co-founder and chief executive officer of the innovative Bharat New-Energy Company (BNC), an electric vehicle company that’s striving to improve air quality by helping India transition to electric motorcycles. The firm’s two-wheelers are leveraging cutting-edge technology and engineering to deliver high-quality products that can be used for personal transport, as well as for delivery applications. Motorcycles are the main transportation source in the South Asian country. They are the primary method of daily commute for a significant portion of the population, and there’s a growing usage of motorcycles in last-mile delivery applications.

Since their introduction in January 2022, BNC’s Challenger model vehicles have been in high demand. There are standing back orders for 150,000 motorcycles, pushing the 100-vehicles-per-day production limitations of a new manufacturing plant and, for now, the company has stopped taking reservations. BNC has currently produced a pilot volume of bikes, and once supply-chain issues are resolved and in-house battery manufacturing is established, the company hopes to make vehicles readily available at a network of more than 300 dealerships across the country by the end of 2023. 

“From Day 1, our mission has been to move to sustainable mobility across all of India. People have shown immense faith in our product and in the company’s vision and we’re committed to working doubly hard to deliver these vehicles as soon as possible to our customers,” said Narayanan, who was born in Bangalore, India’s tech capital city.

And an infusion of equity investments this fall also is enhancing BNC’s plans to meet industry estimates that there could be as many as 130 million electric scooters travelling within India by 2025.

“While there are many EV motorcycle companies in India already, a vast majority of them have resorted to whitelabeling products from China, and only a handful have truly developed products in India for the Indian market. These vehicles have tended to be expensive and unaffordable for the mass market. We have a quality-built product, designed with the Indian use-case in mind, and that’s nearly 100% India-made and reasonably affordable. Those factors are resonating with our customers,” remarked Narayanan during an online interview from India. “Without much marketing, we have seen incredible interest from our customers. I didn’t anticipate seeing this level of demand early on. We’re now focused on executing well and delivering the motorcycles to our customers.” 

Leading an environment-friendly tech company in India was Narayanan’s dream when he left the country to attend Rose-Hulman in the fall of 2006. He earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering (2009) and a master’s degree in engineering management (2010), both with academic honors. 

“I knew attending Rose-Hulman would provide me the strong engineering background that would open doors in whatever path I wanted for my future,” he said. “I took advantage of every opportunity afforded me there and am still using things from my engineering and engineering management classes in addressing the every-day decisions we’re making for this company.”

Other valuable experiences came as Narayanan was an engagement manager with the McKinsey & Company global consultancy, where he helped companies make large-scale financial improvements. He also was a lead application engineer with VTI Instruments Corporation and a supply chain operations team member with Philips, an international company. In between, he earned an MBA from Yale University’s School of Management.

“Colleagues within McKinsey thought I was crazy to be starting a company at this stage in my life (early 30s with a young family) and then COVID hit (shortly after starting BNC), making my decision look even more precarious. But I knew we had a good, well-built product that could make a significant impact in improving the quality of life in a place that’s so important to me and my family,” stated Narayanan. 

The Challenger model features a 2.1 kWh swappable battery and an indigenously built hub motor – both of which contain patent pending technologies. The vehicle can achieve a top speed of 46-49 mph and with two batteries could have a travel range of 120 miles. The scooter’s double cradle steel chassis is built to support 440 pounds (ideal for small business delivery and bike taxis services) and withstand India’s rough roadways and hilly landscape. There are more than 30 patents covering technology advances in battery, telematics, and mechanical architecture. 

“We designed everything with simplicity in mind,” said Narayanan, pointing out that each scooter has 120 parts coming primarily from Indian manufacturers (versus more than 250 parts in typical electric motorcycles). They’re also considerably easy to assemble and service and models are available in only four basic colors.

“Hopefully, once we ramp up our production, we’ll become the No. 1 electric vehicle company in India by the end of 2023,” he remarked. “I’m confident in our product and the people creating it. We’re a group of engineers, thinkers and dreamers fully designing, developing and manufacturing electric vehicles in India – a dream come true.” 

Narayanan added, “Having an engineering background has helped me drive this business. I could not have come this far without a strong engineering background. I am actively involved in all key decisions related to the vehicle and component engineering and have personally been involved in multiple patents. The engineering background has given me credibility with investors and government officials. 

“During a video call with a potential investor, I happened to be wearing a Rose-Hulman t-shirt. He noticed it and said, ‘Oh, you must be a good engineer.’ He went on to become the highest investor in our company, participating in all our equity fundraising rounds,” Narayanan continued. “Rose-Hulman’s practical engineering education provided me with a fantastic foundation to my career. It made me a better engineer. That’s something that I never want to lose.”