Electric vehicles (EVs) can play a crucial role in the future of mobility, but the journey so far has been fraught with challenges. While customers are basically in favor of switching to electric alternatives, they are still reluctant to buy.
The biggest obstacles to large-scale adoption of these vehicles are range anxiety (the concern that the vehicle will run out of fuel before reaching the destination or charging station) and its price. According to an EY report, an electric car in India costs twice as much as an ICE variant. The cost of an electric two-wheeler is 15% higher than that of an ICE variant.
Here is wherehopes to make a difference by helping customers drive electric vehicles without the hassles of ownership – through an affordable monthly subscription model. The company is also committed to addressing potential customers’ range fears by understanding their needs and allaying their concerns about EVs.
The Bengaluru-based startup, founded by Sameer Arif in December 2021, offers a range of electric vehicles (both two-wheelers and cars) on a monthly subscription model. The subscription includes the cost of insurance, general service, maintenance (including normal wear and tear), roadside assistance and charge reimbursement up to a maximum mileage of 1,200 km per month.
A subscription model allows for easy adoption of EVs versus ownership, says the company’s founder.
“With SWYTCHD, users can drive an electric vehicle without investing lakhs in it and also switch vehicles up to the end of the month if they wish. The model has an all-inclusive total cost approach for EVs only, as we want to enable users to easily adopt EVS,” says Sameer.
“Unlike a buying process that requires a lot of time, commitment and capital, SWYTCHD is a simple decision with minimal paperwork that can be done in the comfort of your own home.”
Subscription starts from Rs 5,000 for 2 wheelers and Rs 30,000 for 4 wheelers per month. The service is currently only available in Bengaluru.
SWYTCHD has partnered with Bounce as the official leasing and subscription partner for its Infinity Scooter. Apart from that, the company also offers two-wheelers from Ather, Revolt Motors, Hero and Ola, as well as cars like TATA Tigor XZ+, TATA Nexon EV XZ+ Lux, Hyundai Kona Premium and MG ZS EV Exclusive.
address range anxiety
The company tries to address range anxiety among potential customers by talking to them and understanding their needs. A single point of contact takes care of all questions and concerns related to electric vehicles.
“We spend a lot of time directly with the customer to find out how much they drive in a day, what their charging situation is at home, and then recommend the right electric vehicle for them,” says the founder.
SWYTCHD helps set up charging points for customers for a one-time fee.
In case the vehicle runs out of charge while driving, the company facilitates access to several public charging stations, including those from Ather, Kazam, Bolt, BESCOM and Tata Power. It also has a 24/7 hotline in case customers have trouble finding a public charging station.
How it all began
Before founding Sameer worked for Jaguar Land Rover for a decade in various positions in the UK. Most recently, he was Global Head of Pricing Strategy.
At 23, Sameer became the youngest manager at Jaguar. This entitled him to several perks, including driving a premium lease vehicle, which he could change every six months or every 6,000 miles. Sameer had to pay a subsidized amount for this.
As he rose to leadership positions, Sameer was given two vehicles at the age of 26. “And my train of thought was, why can’t everyone do this?” he says.
Driving from 2017-2020 he witnessed the EV boom in the UK and the rest of Europe and found that India was not.
His access to vehicles at Jaguar (without owning them) and the growth of EVs in Europe led Sameer to believe there was an untapped opportunity in the vehicle subscription space, particularly EVs, in India. At the end of December 2020, he handed in his resignation and threw himself into entrepreneurship.
This is how the SWYTCHD subscription works
SWYTCHD works according to an asset-light model; Financiers buy the vehicles from automobile companies and lease them to the startup.
The company currently has 250 subscriptions from customers, mostly for electric two-wheelers, and around 700 inquiries are on the waiting list. About 95% of vehicles are renewed by customers – meaning the customer continues with the same vehicle they used.
market and competition
SWYTCHD competes with rental companies such as Zoomcar, Yulu, Revv, VOGO and Royal Brothers. However, the startup only focuses on its own needs in the B2C segment.
The global vehicle subscription market was valued at US$13.34 billion in 2021. According to Straits Research, it is projected to reach $48.25 billion and grow at a CAGR of 15.35% between 2022 and 2030.
service and maintenance
The startup says it uses technology to ensure timely service, parts servicing and preventative maintenance.
A telematics unit is used to monitor vehicle usage and mileage, and to track and locate the vehicle. An immobilizer fitted to the vehicle will immobilize the vehicle if desired if it is stolen, misused or towed.
SWYTCHD has partnered with service providers to offer services in the event of a vehicle breakdown. A GPS tracker telematics unit attached to the vehicle helps the company locate the vehicle. A team is then dispatched to the site to recover the vehicle.
SWYCHD collects customer feedback on the vehicle used and takes corrective action based on the feedback.
The biggest challenge for Sameer in his entrepreneurial venture is convincing people to switch from ownership to subscription.
“We are relentlessly focused on marketing to the right consumers. The entire focus of our products, pricing and interaction is to make the journey seamless and hassle-free,” he says.
The company makes targeted use of social media and search engine tools to find customers who want to use an electric vehicle. It also has an invite-only referral program for SWYTCHD customers, friends and family.
growth and future plans
Although the founder declined to disclose the company’s earnings, he said SWYTCHD is commercially positive.
The startup’s service is currently only in Bengaluru. This year plans to expand to Chennai, Hyderabad and other cities where demand for electric vehicles is growing.
SWYTCHD is looking to raise seed investments to fund fleet expansion and retirement. By 2023, 1,000 vehicles are to be on the road.
The startup is also working on an app that will provide customers with its subscription details and help them find nearby charging points. “This will help us manage all of the backend operations and also make it easy for the customer to get into and live with an EV,” says Sameer.