There are women in technology, and there are women entrepreneurs, but there is only one Madhumita Agarwal – the woman who cofounded OBEN EV in August 2020 to manufacture electric scooters for a greener future. She is the first woman who is leading an EV company. This is the story of an Indian woman from Rourkela, Odisha, who successfully built a multi-million dollar business in the technology domain and then launched e-scooters.
Madhumita Agrawal earned a law degree from IIT Kharagpur, specializing in intellectual property, and later pursued management at IIM Bangalore. In 2016, she founded IPexcel, a Global Technology Research and Advisory Organization. Today iPexel, the self-funded, profitable, multi-million dollar revenue business, caters to Fortune 500 Organizations, MNCs, and technology startups across ten countries. The company has 70+ team members in India and the United States, serving 1500+ customers in technology areas such as Software, Application of AI/ML, Blockchain, Automotive, Electric Vehicle Tech, Clean Energy, Petroleum, Biotechnology, Electronics & Hardware.
The second tech venture
But the journey did not end there. While running IPexcel, Madhumita and her husband Dinkar began to get interested in the electric mobility business. They were already consulting few firms in the industry. From market research to technical problems and the future of electric vehicles, they were getting better in every facet of this business. As the research deepened, so did their interest in electric vehicles (EVs).
The tech-driven duo realized, though Electric Vehicles (EVs) have been around in India for more than half a decade, their penetration has lagged far behind. After four years of working closely in the domain, in August 2020, Madhumita and Dinkar incorporated Oben Electric Vehicle Private Limited in Bengaluru, the technology hub of India. The Co-Founder & Ex-MD of IPexcel was now Co-Founder Oben EV_Premium e-Scooter Manufacturer.
What helped differentiate OBEN from other ventures was Madhumita herself. She was persistent, hardworking, and had a deep understanding of the electric vehicle business in India. She and her team identified four main problems in the EV sector. They were: –
1. Poor quality EV products manufactured/imported in India.
2. E-scooters in India cost around 60% higher than their ICE counterparts.
3. Lack of infrastructure and ecosystem to support EVs.
4. Indian EVs are dependent on Korea and China for battery manufacturing resulting in high battery replacement costs.
The deep understanding helped team OBEN design a futuristic EV prototype for the Indian roads. The premium build e-scooter will have a speed of 90 kmph, a battery range of 130 kms, and smart features.
The changing scenario
On February 1, 2021, Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced several new policies for the automotive sector. Among them was the voluntary vehicle scrappage policy. Under this, a buyer can avail of incentives when he/she scraps an old vehicle for a new one.
Further, the automobile industry is moving towards environmental sustainability with the adoption of EVs. Ola has set up the world’s largest e-scooter plant in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. The company TVS invested INR 300 million in EV startup Ultraviolette Automotive Pvt Ltd. In February 2021, it launched its e-scooter iQube Electric in Delhi.
In 2019, there were only around 30,000 EV units sold in India. But, by 2030, the Government of India, aims at a 30% EV adoption to save on oil resources and reduce the carbon emissions in its cities.
Women in technology
In his interview with The Better India, Madhumita’s husband, Dinkar, said, “I really feel proud to be Madhumita’s husband. She is persistent, hardworking, and highly disciplined. This gives her the edge in her professional and personal life. I am still unable to understand how she manages both worlds with such success. She is growing tremendously in her career and I am and will always be there to support her in her endeavors.”
Further, Dinkar agrees, there has to be a healthier ratio of women in technology enterprises. According to him, “Madhumita brings an alternative perspective to every decision we make in our organization. It is one of the major reasons why we have been successful. Women see things that we don’t, and it’s imperative that more of them become part of technology-driven ventures.”
Despite family support and encouragement, as a woman in technology, Madhumita admits, she had to put in extra effort over her male counterparts.
The final word
When asked about – what advice would you give to other young women in the tech domain, Madhumita Agarwal, the Alumni Achiever Awardee (2019) IIT Kharagpur and Rising Stars Awardee (2019) from IIM Bangalore, says – “My advice to young women coming straight out of college is to be confident. How do you build confidence? You build it with oceans of knowledge, a stranglehold of your subject, and deliver what’s required of your work. Once you deliver results for the first time, it subsequently becomes easier. Women have to raise the bar.”
With Statista estimating the number of electric two-wheelers across the country to cross 26 million units in 2030, the President of IIT Kharagpur Alumni Association Bangalore and Executive Committee Member of IIT KGP Foundation India is all set for a larger footprint in a greener India.
Women can helm tech companies, and Madhumita Agarwal has proven it once again!