How an Indian EV startup is partnering with leading UAE firm to promote sustainable mobility

River is the first two-wheeler venture to receive investment from Al-Futtaim Group, after a global evaluation of 50 two-wheeler startups

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Published: Mon 27 Nov 2023, 7:08 PM

River is the newest, trendy electric scooter launched in the Indian market. In partnership with the UAE's Al-Futtaim Group, the company is planning to bolstering its operations and expanding its distribution networks. Aravind Mani, co-founder & CEO of River, elaborates about the company's future plans.

Every startup has an inspiring vision and mission behind its founding. Can you tell us the story behind River and what problem is River looking to resolve?

River was founded with the vision to make a positive impact on people’s day to day life through mobility. Two-wheelers are not just a mode of commute in India - they are tools that help people in their daily lives and livelihood. The options available today are not designed to meet the changing needs of the young and savvy Indian - either they are stylish commuters with limited utility capabilities or they are bare bone utility vehicles. Our first product, Indie, perfectly blends the utility capability needed for day-to-day applications into a very stylish package that reflects the vibrant personalities of the young and ambitious India.

The name River has a special story behind it as well. Traditionally, rivers have been a source of life and livelihood for humankind - civilisations have been built on rivers. Keeping this ethos, here at River, our mission is to design and build products that help people progress in their lives.

How has the response been to River’s first product ‘Indie’ in India? What are the key challenges or learnings you’ve encountered in your go-to-market?

The response and the love from our early customers have been truly humbling. We already have an order backlog of over two months from Bengaluru, our home city. In addition, we have over 10,000 customers from other Indian cities in the waitlist.

I think the key challenge for a young brand like River is to connect with its early customers with an authentic story and to back it up with a solid product. I believe the early response that we are getting is purely because we have done this beautifully.

We had been true to every promise we made to our customers - we honoured the pre-order price even though the Indian government subsidy support has reduced due to a change in policy. We strongly believe a brand is built on trust.

Our focus now, is to scale up the distribution and service across the country without compromising on the connection with customers and the quality of service.

Aravind Mani. - Supplied photo
Aravind Mani. - Supplied photo

How has Al-Futtaim partnership helped River since its investment?

The partnership with Al-Futtaim Group, which is one of the Middle East’s largest diversified business conglomerates and a major stakeholder in the region’s automotive sector, is special to River as the core values of both companies are focused on improving and enriching everyday lives. The group’s recent announcement as a Strategic E-Mobility Partner of COP28 reaffirms its commitment to making sustainable mobility a priority. We are amazed by the value system and processes that has built this conglomerate over the last 90 years. We have adopted some of these and tailored them to fit a young company like River in achieving operational excellence.

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We are honoured to be the first two-wheeler venture to receive investment from Al-Futtaim Group, after they went through a careful assessment and a stringent process of evaluating over fifty two-wheeler startups globally.

The investment will play a big role in bolstering our operations and helping us further expand our distribution networks.

Apart from that, we are excited about partnering with Al-Futtaim in taking River to several countries including UAE. I’m sure Al-Futtaim’s deep understanding of these markets, customer focus and operational excellence will help us establish River as a formidable player in these geographies.

How can River’s in-house capabilities to build products and manufacturing capacity support the demand?

River has an R&D facility spanning an area of 70,000 sq. ft. in Whitefield, Bengaluru, with a fully-fledged Design Studio, Mechanical Workshop, Electrical Labs, and Battery Lab. The facility is equipped to design products from scratch, build prototypes, test them extensively before we transfer mass production to our factory. Our first product, Indie, was conceived and designed there.

We also have set up a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Hoskote, Karnataka, which is around 45 minutes from our R&D facility. The facility spans over 120,000 sqft and is equipped with assembly lines, both for battery pack and vehicle assembly, with the capacity to produce 100,000 units annually.

What products are currently on sale and are there any more in the works?

Currently, we have started the sale of our first product, the River Indie. Indie, with a massive 43L under the seat storage and a 12L front glove box, has the largest storage in any scooter being sold in India today. It is also the only electric scooter with 14-inch wheels in India and is powered by a 4kWh battery pack with a real-world range of 120km.

The scooter platform of River is very scalable and can be used for scooters that cater to a segment of customers. We are working on some new products and several accessories. More details of this will be announced in the next few months.


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