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Charging up the Electric Scooter ecosystem with Pranesh Urs, VP & Head of Marketing, Ather Energy

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Ather Energy is one of India’s foremost electric vehicle brands and an enterprise that is proud to be completely ‘Made in India’ from design to product. It has created a wide charging infrastructure network to facilitate its customers and has been working tirelessly to change perceptions in the domain.

‘Quora for Business Thought Leadership’, an initiative which deep-dives into the minds of leaders who drive change in various domains, caught up with Pranesh Urs, VP & Head of Marketing, Ather Energy. Here are the highlights of his conversation with Neha Chimbulkar of Quora.

Tell us about your experience in electric vehicle space and some recent shifts have you noticed?

The market for EVs in India evolved rather slowly as several Chinese brands introduced low-speed, low-quality vehicles in the initial years. This created a negative perception amongst consumers, who began labelling EVs as slow and fragile. 

In 2013, we founded our company and launched our first product in 2018. It was a completely ‘Made in India’ vehicle. With a focus on performance, our product offered features such as a 90 km/h top speed, an aluminum chassis, world’s first touch screen dashboard on a scooter, and other innovative features. Even after five years we continue to prioritize user experiences. 

Today, the momentum is gradually spreading across the country. However, challenges persist, and our marketing strategy acknowledges the diverse barriers and fears consumers have, emphasizing that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t suffice in the evolving EV landscape.

 

What are the leading challenges that you’ve observed recently and how is Ather Energy working to address these?

We are recognizing common barriers such as skepticism about EV speeds and concerns about low battery life that would add to the total cost of ownership, amongst others. To tackle these, we provide an unconditional five-year warranty, assuring free replacement if the battery falls below 70% health before the end of 5yrs. Further, we commit to a 105-kilometer range so we definitely deliver on our promise.

We realize that unparalleled experiences will shift perceptions so we are looking forward to an increased presence on the roads, followed by positive word-of-mouth recommendations. To convey this message effectively, our marketing strategy emphasizes building consideration and awareness. As different markets pose different challenges, we recognize the role of digital channels in reaching diverse markets and addressing distinct challenges.

 

How does Ather Energy approach marketing electric vehicles, particularly from the challenge of drawing people towards this new technology, away from the traditional two-wheeler option?

Ather Energy recognises the pitfalls of competing at the lowest price points and focuses on delivering a superior product experience. We aim to change the perceptions of EV scooters with our pioneering customer-centric approach.

Energy democratization is another key pillar of Ather’s strategy. As the largest OEM for a fast charging network in India with 1500 fast charging grids across the country,, Ather  has established the charging infrastructure even before market penetration. This dispels concerns about charging availability. We also addressed issues related to battery and software experiences.

How important is digital marketing to Ather Energy’s overall strategy? 

Unlike traditional petrol scooters, prospective EV buyers extensively research factors like range, charging infrastructure, quality, and user experience. Ather tackles these challenges by leveraging digital media, especially social platforms, to dispel myths and educate consumers about the brand’s strengths and offerings. While the company invests in above-the-line advertising for top-of-mind awareness, the primary focus is on the consideration phase. We use digital efforts to deliver the narrative and engage potential buyers during the extended review process, a critical aspect of the EV market.

How does customer feedback impact your marketing strategy, especially considering the extensive discussions about EVs in recent years?

To gather customer feedback, we conduct focus group discussions in different regions across the country to understand challenges specific to those areas. We also have a robust community of over 1,30,000 members who engage with us regularly. They not only share problems but also contribute to solutions, creating a strong support network. For instance, if a user reports an issue on our forum, often, a fellow community member resolves it before we can respond. Thirdly, we actively seek feedback from retailers to gain additional insights.

Our interactions with consumers span forums, focus groups, and social media platforms and continuously adapt our marketing strategy based on insights gathered from these various channels.

How does content marketing fit into your strategy, and can you share examples of how you create content, its role in product promotion, and the associated metrics?

Our content marketing strategy revolves around key elements, starting with a strong presence on social media. When launching a product, we tailor content to highlight the value proposition incl. features and benefits, transitioning to content aimed at driving consumer considerations post-launch. Additionally, our influencer strategy plays a crucial role, with influencers authentically endorsing our brand and products and sharing their genuine experiences.

Another facet involves crafting narratives for listicles and reviews. We identify and address challenges related to category adoption, brand consideration, or brand preference, creating content around these pillars. 

Recognizing the influence of product reviews, we focus on authentic reviews. We actively address concerns raised in these reviews to strengthen our product perception. 

Quora is a unique platform that sits between search and social media, offering a space for people to seek knowledge and learn from others’ experiences. As a hub of knowledge where people seek expert advice or peer-to-peer experiences, how do you see this platform aligning with Ather Energy’s values and vision?

As a brand, we recognize that consumers may not fully trust traditional branded content. Platforms, like Quora, become essential for authentic conversations. Despite promotional opportunities on various platforms, Quora stands out for its user-generated information.

For Ather Energy, our focus is on delivering exceptional product experiences. We have the world’s largest R&D for electric two-wheelers. This is all driven by Indian engineers, based in Bangalore. Our meticulous approach to features and consumer experience goes beyond what traditional marketing can capture. Quora provides an ideal space for in-depth and engaging discussions.

When choosing topics for Quora, we aim to go beyond typical marketing communications. For example, we might discuss key considerations when buying a scooter, applicable to both petrol and electric vehicles. In the evolving landscape of electric scooters, we also have much to share about how our offerings outshine others in terms of experience.

We encourage consumers to actively contribute to these discussions and share their positive or negative experiences. This open dialogue helps us understand consumer perspectives, allowing us to amplify positive aspects and promptly address any concerns.

We are at the end of 2023 and as we head into 2024, in your opinion, what are the marketing trends that people should watch out for?

While AI has already made great strides in 2023, it is expected to become even more prevalent in the coming year. Generative AI, in particular, holds great promise for marketers, proving especially beneficial for emerging brands. This technology can swiftly address real-time challenges and offer innovative solutions. I anticipate the use of generative AI to be a major trend in marketing in 2024.

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