Meet the poster-girl of mass EV mobility in India: Sulajja Firodia Motwani of the Kinetic Legacy
Sulajja Motwani, the 48-year-old scion of one of India’s oldest business families, cut her teeth very early in the family business of two-wheelers after she and her husband gave up their American dreams to settle down in Pune.
Having pioneered two-wheeler movement in the country, Sulajja’s father Arun Firodia was successfully running a joint venture with Honda Motor Company that gave India its first gearless scooter, KH-100. During the initial years at Kinetic, she immersed herself in work. Besides overseeing the company’s strategy, sales, marketing, and finance portfolios, she practically lived out of a suitcase.
But the 90s turned out to be a decisive decade for Motwani, who had to steer Kinetic on her own after Honda broke away from the joint venture. From 1998 to 2008, Kinetic tried to launch motorcycles and scooters with failed partnerships, right from Korean two-wheeler maker Hyosung Motorcycles in 2001 and Italjet Moto of Italy in 2004 to the Taiwan-based Sanyang Motor Company, which also picked up 11% stake in the Indian operations, in 2006. But none of the alliances lasted for long, including the one with the Mahindras. In 2014, Kinetic exited the venture and the two-wheeler business for good.
Around the same time, Sulajja saw a future in EVs and in 2014, Kinetic Green began by selling golf carts, and put its brand out in the market. In 2017, the company managed to bag a Rs.4-billion order for 27,000 e-rickshaws from the UP government – a turning point that saw its turnover surge to Rs.1 billion by FY17.
Kinetic today has a strong network of 180 dealers leveraging its past brand legacy, broad-basing its institutional client base and moving up the value chain. It has a deal with Italian auto luxury brand Lamborghini, to produce and sell the company’s branded e-golf carts and campus vehicles for the global market. Over the next five years, the JV has set a target of selling 5,000 golf carts a year – that’s Rs.3-4 billion business per annum.
Having run a successful two-wheeler business and losing it all, Motwani is more confident about the future. “Even during the most testing phase in the past, I never lost hope and believed that I shall overcome it,” she says.