Interview: Samarth Kholkar

CEO and Co-Founder at B: Live

Empowering Fleet Operators with B:Live’s E-Mobility Solutions Platform

May 08, 2024. By Aishwarya

We focus on simplifying the entry of fleet operators into the EV market by providing comprehensive solutions from the initial stages of fleet creation and setup to lifecycle support services, says Samarth Kholkar, CEO and Co-Founder and Sandeep Mukherjee, COO, B:Live in a roundtable conference with Aishwarya, Energetica India.

Que: What is your company's USP that sets it apart from its competitors?

Ans: Our unique selling point is that we are completely asset-light and we integrate the entire electric vehicle (EV) ecosystem into one platform. Unlike other companies that may focus on specific segments of the EV ecosystem such as manufacturing EVs or making chargers, we provide a holistic solution. We bring everything together, starting from vehicle procurement, providing financing and leasing solutions to fleet management and after sale services, we offer it all on a single platform.

This approach makes us a one-stop platform for fleet operators. They don't need to contact multiple service providers for different needs. Everything from the start to the end of the fleet lifecycle is managed by us, ensuring that fleet operators receive seamless service throughout.

Moreover, we negotiate better rates and terms for our clients due to our national-level operations and large volume, which are more favorable than what individual fleet operators might get on their own. For example, we offer an 80,000-kilometer warranty as opposed to the standard 30,000 to 40,000 kilometers available in the retail market. This extended warranty is a significant addition that fleet operators get without extra cost when they partner with us.

We facilitate special terms with manufacturers and suppliers, providing fleet operators access and support they might not receive directly from dealers. Our relationships enable us to serve as a bridge and offer backend access that enhances on-the-ground operations for fleet operators. Our ability to streamline procurement, management, and operations sets us apart, enabling fleet operators to thrive by reducing complexity and boosting efficiency. Paired with our asset-light model, this comprehensive support positions us uniquely in the market, offering substantial, hard-to-replicate value.

Que: As a new fleet operator, how would B: Live help them in the process?

Ans: B:Live offers a streamlined and supportive journey for new fleet operators. We focus on simplifying the entry into the EV market by providing comprehensive support from the initial stages of fleet creation and setup to lifecycle support services. This includes detailed guidance on vehicle selection, financial planning, and operational training amongst others.

We cater to two main categories within the industry: those completely new to fleet operations and seasoned operators looking to transition to electric vehicles. For newcomers, our approach involves a systematic onboarding process onto our platform, starting with a minimum fleet size to ensure economic viability and compliance with industry standards. Further, this is an operationally complex and intensive business so we provide them with a fleet management solution which helps them manage and streamline their operations.

Que: How do you support these operators initially and do you offer any specific benefits to fleet operators?

Ans: Our initial support for new operators is quite robust. We assist in fleet creation by offering a selection of electric vehicles tailored to their specific operational needs. We also provide advantageous procurement terms through our partnerships with leading EV manufacturers, which are not typically available in the market. We also help them with the capital required to set up the fleet by providing various financing and leasing solutions.

We leverage our strong B2B partnerships to secure benefits that significantly enhance the value proposition for our fleet operators. This includes extended warranties and exclusive service packages, which improve the total cost of ownership and operational reliability. We help our fleet operators increase the utilization rate of their fleet by assisting them with generating demand for the deployment of their vehicles through partnership with the likes of Zomato, etc.

Que: What challenges and opportunities did B: Live face in its early development phase?

Ans: We have faced challenges inherent to a platform as we integrate the entire EV ecosystem. This involves solving individual issues across different segments and staying innovative amidst industry changes. We must adapt to evolving industry standards and regulations swiftly. Regulatory changes, driven by local and national governments, demand continuous updates to comply with new guidelines. Despite challenges, we see them as growth opportunities in the expansive EV sector. Our adaptability and comprehensive platform position us to capitalize on industry shifts, driving technology adoption and fostering sustainable mobility. This journey is challenging yet immensely rewarding as we shape the future of the last mile mobility segment in India.

Que: How do you select your partners and what is your criteria for selecting a budding startup?

Ans: We have a rigorous selection process that assesses potential partners on multiple dimensions, such as their financial stability, industry experience, and alignment with our strategic goals. For startups, we look for innovative business models, potential for scalability, and a commitment to sustainability.

Que: Do you offer customization for fleet management systems?

Ans: Yes, we offer customizable fleet management solutions that are designed to integrate seamlessly with the operator's existing operations. Our tech-enabled platform allows for real-time tracking, maintenance scheduling, and performance analytics, which are critical for optimizing fleet efficiency and uptime.

Que: Can you tell us about your financial model and what makes it unique compared to your competitors?

Ans: Our revenue model is structured around earning commissions across all phases of a fleet operator's journey, encompassing fleet establishment, deployment, and subsequent services such as financing, leasing, after-sale support, and insurance.

Additionally, customers gain access to our extensive platform, including our fleet management solution, through a one-time fee. Distinguishing ourselves from others in the EV sector, we function as an integrated platform that seamlessly merges the entire EV ecosystem. This integration not only facilitates horizontal expansion but also optimizes our offerings, thereby creating numerous avenues for monetization.

Que: What type of metrics does B:Live use to measure the success of the fleet management operations?"

Ans: B:Live employs various essential metrics to gauge the enhanced efficiency of our customers' operations. This approach ensures we provide timely and comprehensive oversight to address any gaps our customers encounter.

As a business, we diligently monitor a select few North Star metrics to continually evaluate our performance and ensure alignment with our strategic vision.

Fleet Size and Utilization: Our primary metric is the total number of EVs operational on our platform. This metric gives us insight into the scale of our operations and our overall contribution to last-mile mobility. We monitor how many vehicles are actively running as part of the fleet, which directly reflects our growth and efficiency.

Deployment Efficiency: We also assess the percentage of the fleet that has been successfully deployed to service providers like Zomato or Swiggy. The ideal target is a 100 percent deployment rate, meaning every vehicle acquired by a fleet operator is in active use, maximizing the return on investment for each unit.

Operational Uptime and Maintenance: Another crucial metric we track is the operational uptime of deployed vehicles versus those out of service for maintenance or repairs. High uptime is critical for profitability and operational efficiency. Our aim is to maintain over 90 percent operational uptime across all fleets. We achieve this through rapid repair and maintenance services, leveraging our network of service centers to minimize downtime.

Financial Performance: On the financial side, we measure the revenue generated per vehicle deployed. This helps us understand the earning potential of our customer’s fleet and the effectiveness of pricing strategy. Further, we operate on a model where we take a cut on the total rental revenue generated by the fleet operators, making it essential that the fleets are running efficiently.

Our approach is not just about tracking these metrics but also about responding proactively to the data we collect. Each fleet operator has access to a personalized dashboard that provides real-time information on vehicle status, including location, battery charge, and operational history. This decentralized data collection method empowers operators to manage their fleets more effectively and make informed decisions based on real-time analytics.

By maintaining high standards for these metrics, we ensure that our fleet operations are both profitable and sustainable, providing reliable and efficient service to our clients and partners in the EV ecosystem.

Que: Are you also involved in the charging segment?

Ans: We actively participate in the charging infrastructure segment by collaborating with various providers to deploy charging solutions tailored to the needs of our fleet operators. This includes fast-charging stations and, increasingly, battery swap technology to reduce downtime and enhance operational efficiency.

Que: Any expansion plans or new venture the company plans to launch this year?

Ans: Our expansion plans are centered on scaling our existing services and exploring new verticals within the EV ecosystem. This includes potentially creating a secondary market for EVs and developing new financial products that facilitate easier access to EV technology for smaller operators.

Que: Can you elaborate on how you handle the diverse needs of fleet operators and gig workers?

Ans: We have developed a flexible platform that can be customized to meet the diverse needs of our users, whether they are large operators or micro-fleet operators. Right from the outset, we enable customization, starting from when our fleet operators are establishing their fleets. For example, our fleet operators must maintain a diverse range of EVs to meet the varied requirements of their customers i.e last-mile mobility agents. A Zomato driver might require a different vehicle compared to a Rapido driver. Through our partnerships with various OEMs, we facilitate the creation of a multi-brand EV fleet, ensuring they are able to meet those diverse needs. We offer flexibility and tailored solutions at every stage of the fleet operator's lifecycle. In the future, our aim is to broaden the services available to gig workers through our fleet operators, offering a comprehensive support system that encompasses financial planning, insurance, and even entrepreneurial training to foster their growth.

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