By Aditi Shah
BENGALURU (Reuters) - Indian electric scooter maker Ather Energy will accelerate new model launches at home and test export markets, its chief executive told Reuters, raising new money to boost growth after the government lowered subsidies for the vehicles.
India's electric scooter market is small but growing, with e-models accounting for 5% of total scooter and motorcycle sales in the last fiscal year against a government target of 70% by 2030.
But in a surprise move in May, the government, without explanation, slashed cash incentives on the vehicles to a maximum of 15% of the price before taxes from 40% earlier. The next month total e-scooter sales more than halved.
Ather's sales also dropped but are rapidly picking up. CEO Tarun Mehta said in an interview that the company is now working on two new models, one of which will be launched six months earlier than originally planned.
"The transition to electric vehicles could have been faster if not for the (subsidy) change but even then, there will be no major impact in the mid to long term," he said.
"This shift means we are having to fast track product launches and invest more in product development," he added.
As part of a long-term growth strategy, Ather is aiming for more than 50% of its sales to come from global markets by the end of the decade, Mehta said.
Ather, India's third-largest e-scooter maker after Softbank Group-backed Ola Electric and local TVS Motor, plans to add a scooter designed for use by different members of a family to its current two-model lineup aimed at individual riders, Mehta said.
Valued at around $750 million, Ather will raise more money before the end of 2023 to back its growth plans, he said, without giving more details.
A source with direct knowledge of Ather's plans said the company is looking to raise an amount similar to the $108 million garnered from existing shareholders Hero MotoCorp and Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC in a recent rights issue.
Ather will also pilot sales in one Asian export market in a couple of months.
"India will not only be the largest market in the world for electric two-wheelers but also the largest exporter," he said.
(This story has been corrected to say end of the decade, not century in paragraph 7)
(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)