In conversation with Kapil Shelke, Founder and CEO of Tork Motors

Gajanan Kashikar Updated: October 16, 2023, 09:44 AM IST

During our recent visit to the Tork Motors production facility in Chakan, Pune, we had the opportunity to engage in a quite long conversation with Kapil Shelke, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Tork Motors. In this discussion, he shed light on the company's expansion strategies, upcoming Kratos variants, and the sales performance of Tork Motors.

Q: In your presentation, you said that you have about 15 dealerships in India. And you plan to expand them by around 100 dealerships by March 2024. How is it going?

There are about 15 more cities that already live in. I think every month we are opening at least two or three experience zones. Currently, there are 17-18 dealerships in progress.

Actually, we don't wait for the showrooms to inaugurate; we start serving the customers, even before the inauguration. It is the theory that we are working on. So, currently there are about 32 stores, out of which, 15 are fully live, and the other 17 are working in progress. But you can go there, see the vehicle, and test ride it even if the store is not live. Plus, all our stores are standalone.

Q: How has been the sales performance of Tork? Given it's been a year or so.

Technically, I started thinking about it in January. That's when we launched the vehicle. Earlier we were only in Pune for about 8-9 months. So, in the first six months, I think we clocked about 700-800 numbers. But then the subsidy went down. Now we are back to our August numbers, which were our March numbers. I think our May numbers will be our September numbers. So, in just two months, we're back to our old numbers.

I think, average sales per store is about 10 units right now. Some stores are about 40 units per month. But Pune and Bangalore always outperform everybody else.

The Number of stores has been going up. Earlier we were only two stores and three stores now we're at 15 stores. So we're not as large as everybody else at the first time. But we're getting there.

Q: Are you expecting a particular sales number after expanding your dealer network in India?

The numbers will grow, see, I think the customer has a lot of options today. They're not motorcycle options. In fact, in terms of scooters, you know how a scooter will perform, so you just pick a brand. In the motorcycle sense, you have not ridden an electric motorcycle ever. So around 99.99 per cent of the people have never ridden an electric motorcycle. They might have seen an electric scooter or ridden it, but they haven't seen or ridden an electric motorcycle. I don't think we are comparing it to scooter logic. We are building a category. I am not tracking the sales numbers. Sales is a part of pricing and other things that affect it. But currently, it is very early for us. 

Q: Speaking of the scooters, you have got a scalable motor and a scalable factory. So, are you planning to enter a new segment with a scooter?

No plans. We're not planning or doing research and development. But I was jokingly telling somebody that in 2018 we were, then we shifted to Somehow in my head that day I must have imagined that I will not only be in motorcycles. But now if you ask me, there is no plan. There's been motorcycles because that's the category that we want to be in. We like the category.

Q: In terms of motorcycles. You're going to bring back the affordable Kratos as you said in the presentation. So, are there any other plans for launching a new motorcycle apart from Kratos?

So we've already shown the Kratos X. The X might come in a new avatar and not very particularly that old avatar. Because that was tuned for a specific reason and a specific time period. Now, the subsidies are gone now. So we'll have to optimise the pricing, so the X will come soon. I think we will also bring the Kratos back. We had stopped selling it in January. So we are trying to bring the Kratos back. These are the two launches that I see that will happen in the coming quarters. But beyond that, there's no plan that we can showcase. These are the plans which are live right now. But all other plans are mostly fluid. There's nothing concrete about that.

Q: You said that you have got a 3kW fast charger, but you haven't started selling it to customers. So do you have any plans to sell it?

No, actually we've tried doing that, even I tested a lot, but it doesn't help. It is not the most optimum method to charge the vehicle. So, for example, if you give him the fast charger, it only fast charges at a certain level in less than one hour, but after that you're waiting and what you're losing is the battery degradation happens faster. Do you really need that? Can you wait one more hour to charge at home? Yes. So that's why we decided we will not give it to the customer, but we will deploy it as a standalone fast charger. There are already about five chargers in our various internal locations because these are maybe under test. And the larger fast chargers are already deployed at Baner experience zone in Pune. 

Q: So are you planning to expand them alongside the expansion of your dealer network?

Every dealer will have a fast charger, at least five charges per dealer location is the plan to start with. Because small cities might not require large numbers but Pune might require about 50 chargers in totality. But I think more data has to come to cement where we should put up a charger.

We can install chargers in popular landmarks, such as Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar, but that's only one per cent of our customers. We want to solve the charging problems of a customer who commutes to the office every day. Currently, portable charger is a life. So all the way 90 per cent of the people now buy portable chargers.

Q: You are working on another portable charger which can fit in the bike's utility box. Tell us about it.

The current portable charger fits in the utility box. But maybe a faster one or a smaller one can do. Because there are two problems that we're facing right now. If you've to fit the charger, we can't fit something else. That's why we created a bag to carry other stuff. The other thing is, if you still have to fit the charger, how can we also fit gloves or a smartphone? We've been trying to solve that.

Q: So the upcoming charger will be smaller and faster?

Maybe. I won't comment on it right now. But yeah, that's the natural progression.

Q: When we reviewed the pre-production Kratos R, we experienced that the bike had an overheating issue. And after riding it in, especially in power mode, it heated in 15-20 minutes. So have you been able to resolve that issue?

Yes. So now what we've done is we had the boundary conditions to sort of shut it down very tight. Because we thought customers might not use it so often in sports mode. He's not going to ride at 13-degree incline or going up and down a couple of times. They are going to do it once, maybe twice, but not about three or four times. So I think these were the conditions that we'd sort of tested and narrowed it down. And then we realised that it is not the only customers.

Our customers are not the only customer, the media is also sort of customer. And you'd have to prepare the bike for that. So we didn't change that day. But now the problem is resolved.

You will only encounter it if you abuse it. I think 99.99 per cent of the consumers have not experienced it. Usually people don't ride it in sports mode. To heat it up, the average speed has to be about 50kmph and above.

Q: But even if we ride it in that mode for about 10-15 minutes, It shouldn't affect the performance. Has it been solved?

Now the performance degradation is not noticeable. Earlier, it was noticeable. It is there, but not noticeable to normal customers. 

Q: Any plans to improve that further?

Yea, we're solving it. So we've already solved it about 99.9 per cent, but I think there is still a lot of improvement that we can do. With the newer vehicles, I think this is fundamental. That you should be able to sort of gun it in sports mode and you can do it till the battery discharges and other components and controllers in the system also sort of should not go into thermal shut down. I think that's a logical step that we are taking. 

Q: Are you planning to upgrade the battery pack or the powertrain in terms of cooling? 

I don't think there was something wrong fundamentally. It is just the software that we had written and the test that we're doing and maybe we will change the processes in the factory to make sure that we check out all those kinks before it goes back to the customer. So it is not that the whole engineering will change. It is just the software.

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