One could never tell when the course of life could take a U-turn. It happened to a young mechanical engineer, Abhinav Das, who established Evomo (derived from Evolution and Mobility) Research and Advancement Company Pvt Ltd. He set up Evomo in 2010 to design and manufacture, what he calls, rural utility vehicles or RUVs.
It all started when Das got an incubation opportunity from National Design Business Incubator (NDBI) at National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, where he was given a workshop and an office space. NID also gave around Rs 6 lakh as seed funding. He quit his engineering job to pursue his dream to transform rural mobility. “I was clear about my career goals. I wanted to pursue motor sports engineering abroad. During my trip to Bihar, I saw a jugaad vehicle and that was the turning point of my life,”explains Das. Jugaad is colloquial Hindi-Urdu word that can mean an innovative fix or a simple work-around.
His claims that the main inspiration behind RUVs is his concern for unsafe jugaad in India’s rural. Jugaad vehicles could be dangerous, and they are not certified by Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) or the International Centre for Automotive Technology (ICAT).
“After reading and learning as much as I could, I realized that there is a lacunae in rural transport which is usually illegal and unsafe, and the vehicular alternatives like jugaad are only the partial solutions. So, I saw an opportunity to do something meaningful that could break the cycle of poverty in families and provide access to an improved quality of life in the truest sense of the term for the rural residents. That’s where the inspiration for Evomo came from,” Das elaborates. The seed of RUV was sown in Das’s mind at a conference organised by the Society of Indian Automobile Association (SIAM).
Developing the product
During college days, Das and his team made a prototype vehicle.The first basic prototype was ready by 2012, but they kept on improvising it based on the inputs received from field trail. The final prototype was ready in January, 2013.
Evomo’s RUV is a basic vehicle with a proprietary chassis design, a body made of steel and fibre and an Euro-II engine from Greaves Cotton. The 600-cc single cylinder engine that powers the vehicles (12 HP and 3,600 RPM) is distinct from a typical jugaad vehicle’s non-automotive engines. The vehicles can carry up to 2,000 kg of load. The price ranges from Rs1.8-2.0 lakh for the baseline version with a mileage of 20 km per litre.
“There have been numerous challenges that we have to deal with along the way as well, not to mention working on an inadequate budget most of the time,” Das says. Another biggest hurdle was to find investors to fund the project. "We are open to investments from investors, private equity or venture capital funds. But nothing has come through till now," Das laments. However, they have come up with innovative ways to tackle problems like hiring of very small but dedicated full-time team to avoid extra operational costs.
But what motivates him and the team is the fact that they have managed to generate high amount of customer interest which in turn has inspired confidence in potential investors.
The way forward
Evomo’s Saavaj is another rugged, off-road, low-cost Rural Utility Vehicle (RUV). It allows users to perform basic agricultural functions such as, pumping water, spraying fields, or even generating electricity. “In the future, Evomo hopes to modify design specifications to serve other sectors of the economy such as healthcare and education, ” states Das. “Evomo’s goal is to remove barrier by co-creating transport solutions through engagement with local rural communities in India and around the world in an economically, environmentally, and sustainable manner.”
When asked about his ultimate goal, a confident Das says, “The ultimate goal is to make Evomo a force to reckon with in the Indian and global automobile sector, and to be the world leader in affordable and high-quality rural utility vehicles.”
Though the ride for Das and his team has been quite bumpy, they still manage to sustain their innovation with the available limited resources.