A few former tech executives and Ashwin Mahesh are set to introduce an electric-cab service in the city with a host of cloud-connected safety features, mainly aimed at ferrying employees of technology and outsourcing companies. The new service, Lithium, will begin operations next month with an initial fleet of about 100 electric cars.
The electric taxis, fitted with panic buttons, will be connected to the cloud, communicating more than 200 parameters including remaining charge, location and detection of unauthorised passengers to the transport departments of technology companies — passenger safety and fuel-efficiency being the key pitches to potential clients.
“You will always know where the vehicle is, will always be able to look inside the vehicle; all of the things that were uncertainties will get improved,” said Mahesh.
Cab drivers working for tech parks often moonlight for taxi-hailing app companies such as Uber and Ola, something Lithium aims to put an end to, he said. About 10 technology companies in Bengaluru have already signed up for the service, Lithium said, declining to name its clients.
“We had to close the sales cycle, as we wanted to get the execution right,” said Sanjay Krishnan, the 44-year-old CEO of the company and a former employee of Honeywell.
Lithium has tied up with several car makers to embed its software and hardware in their electric cars, said Krishnan. It will own and operate its fleet, and charge companies monthly on a per-car basis, with no limits on the miles driven by each car. Lithium is also installing charging stations inside technology campuses.
The company’s electric taxis will have tamper-proof GPS, undisclosed to the driver. Also, since the cars will always be connected to the internet via wi-fi, the embedded software will be able to alert clients about unauthorised riders or if a cab veers off course. A mobile app will allow commuters to communicate with the driver without sharing their phone number.
Lithium, which is self-funded, expects to break even in 18 months. Mahindra Reva and Nissan’s electric cars, among others, will be part of the company’s fleet. The company has hired Wipro’s former chief procurement officer Siva Periasamy to head its employee transportation business; Ashwin Yadav, who headed business planning at Oracle Financial Services Software, as its product head; and former Honeywell executive Pravin Salins as operations head.
Originally planned for Bengaluru, Lithium has seen interest also from Pune, Hyderabad, Chennai and Gurgaon and hopes to have a fleet of 2,000 vehicles plying across India in the next two years, Krishnan said, adding that the technology could be fitted in autorickshaws as well.
Subhabrata Ghosh, founder of Celcius100 Innovation Consulting, said Lithium has the potential to become a pioneer in the electric taxi space in India.
“The test drive was spectacular. You bring technology into play, the number of security features are amazing,” said Ghosh. He estimates an electric car can travel 120 km after a two-hour charge.
“This has potential to save (clients) 1-2 crore every year on an operating basis,” said Krishnan, basing his estimate on companies that run a fleet of about 100 Indicas clocking about 4,000 km a month each.