Virtual Event on Celebrating Pioneer EV Businesses in Bangladesh

by Bijon Islam

Date: Thursday, 10th February 2022
Time: 3:00 – 4:00 PM (Dhaka Time)
Platform: Zoom Virtual event hosted by LightCastle Partners

Lightcastle Partners and Ricardo organized a Virtual Event on “Pioneer EV Businesses in Bangladesh” to create awareness and promote the pioneering EV (Electric Vehicle) adoption cases in Bangladesh on February 10, 2022. This event is part of the UK Government-funded ‘’Road to a Green Bangladesh‘’ project which is surveying the local uptake of EV in the current circumstances.

Ricardo, with its consortium members IDCOL, Light Castle Partners, Policy Exchange Bangladesh and Hivos Energia, has been working to create awareness and promote EV  adaptation in Bangladesh. Startups, ecosystem builders, and financial institutions attended the session to share their insights and knowledge.

The session began with a welcome note from Mehad Ul Haque, Senior Business Consultant and Program Manager of  LightCastle Partners. Then an introduction to the session agenda was presented to the guests. The session aimed to present case studies of emerging startups that intend to integrate EV into the business and create awareness in the community. Then Mate Antosik, Project Coordinator at Ricardo, shared a brief overview of the project and stated, “The Green Recovery Fund Program is a capacity building program under the UK government’s 

UK PACT program. It supports innovative capacity-building programs in each partner country.

Through today’s session, we aim to present the business cases, get feedback for improvement, and raise interest among financiers for the potential businesses.”

Overview of the MSMEs and Startups

The current scenario of startups around the country was presented by Mehad Ul Haque, Senior Business Consultant and Program Manager through a presentation. The presentation included the key challenges faced by the country’s startups and a few recommendations to improve the ecosystem.

Figure 1: Overview of the MSMEs and Startups – a glimpse of the presentation.

A total of 30 MSME case studies were conducted to explore the potential of EV business in Bangladesh to point out the challenges, prospects, and risks in implementing the EV business model in a country like Bangladesh. 

Pioneering EV Businesses Showcase

Five prospective startups Advanced Dynamics, JoBike, DhakaCast, Lily, and SOLshare presented their businesses and future plans as well as the possibility and benefits of nationwide EV implementation. They also shared their interest in decreasing pollution and adopting sustainable EV-enabling business models.

Tauseef Anwar
Co-Founder & CBO, Advanced Dynamics

“Advanced Dynamics manufactures electric vehicles for sustainable and affordable transportation in the country. Advanced Dynamics also assembles vehicles along with manufacturing. We have also started building batteries for EVs. EVs can be an affordable and sustainable alternative to existing transportation means. An EV truck is 30-40% cheaper in a 5 years ownership period than the usual one for trucks. Advanced Dynamics is already developing electric bikes for B2B systems, but they are not yet available for the retail market.”

Syed Saif 
Founder and CEO, Lily

“ Lily is a marketplace connecting women consumers and businesses. Our study shows that women are sidelined in South-Asia e-commerce growth, where women run only 9% of businesses. That is the aim of Lily, to connect SMEs and entrepreneurs with women gig workers. Lily has established EV pilot models for providing area-wise services. Lily also aims to equip 1Mn+ women with 60% vehicles, mostly through EVs hopefully by 2028.”

Dr. Farheen Hannan 
Founder, Dhaka Cast

“DhakaCast is a health-tech company that works with diabetic patients in Bangladesh. DhakaCast is a platform for diabetic patients that provides all kinds of support at their doorstep. Ours is a commission-based business; we charge a 15-35% commission per service/product. For delivering the products and services to every doorstep, we need several delivery vehicles. This is where we would like to include EVs into our system. Using third-party delivery is currently costing us a substantial amount which through EV implementation can be reduced, I believe.” 

Mehedi Reza 
Co-Founder & CEO, Jobike

“Public transport in Bangladesh is costly and also not very easily available. So bicycles can be an easy solution to this, we believe.  Jobike was launched in 2018 with 20 bicycles and now has more than 300 bicycles in operation. Jobike has also launched a smart e-bicycle to fasten the speed of bicycles for the convenience of the users. The latest e-bicycle features include a 48V high-efficiency Lithium battery, that can travel up to 80 km on a single charge. The current market is big enough to cover 20Mn users, with $275Mn yearly revenue. Jobike can be used through mobile apps, with a minimum amount of recharge. Few more business models, parking points, and charging stations are under development now.”

Sebastian Groh
Managing Director, SOLshare 

The market for electric vehicles in Bangladesh is huge. Low-income people need affordable, high-quality products. The three-wheelers in the market currently use LED asset batteries, which is not a sustainable solution. SOLshare was founded in 2014, and it aims to provide vulnerable communities access to high quality energy services. SOLmobility business line is the main discussion point today. Neighboring countries of ours have a bunch of fintech organizations that have already financed advanced batteries to three-wheelers. It is a great investment with a return and lets the organizations remotely control the asset. Securitization of the assets is also ensured through this. Putting lithium batteries will not only reduce electric charge up to 40% for garage owners but will also increase incomes which will get them a  better loan and leasing contracts as well.”

One of the key objectives of this project is to enable the macro, small and medium enterprises in Bangladesh, to transition towards sustainable transportation and electrical solutions successfully. The program also emphasizes gender equality and social inclusion in businesses and business models in the EV sector, also to support women entrepreneurs. The session showcased the potential startups to the financial institutions and asked for their feedback to make these projects investable. The key findings from this report will be presented separately to enable other businesses to use the lesson learned here, which might help them support their business cases. Also, it will be beneficial for the financial institutions to have an overview of the potential opportunity in this sector.

The key recommendations from this session were to improve the policy and regulations, especially the safety guidelines and rules. Public sector inclusion will motivate more stakeholders from the private sector as well. Also, new business models will be included to create a developed ecosystem around the EV system. Including more financial instruments and institutions is required for a lower interest rate and creating more profitable EV ventures. Creating awareness is also set as a priority for the growth of this sector.

Mate Antosik, Project Coordinator, Ricardo, ended the session with a thank you note to all the guests and the prospective startup founders for their appealing presentation. 

The presenters welcomed questions from the participants to seek any clarifications about their business and activities towards creating a greener ecosystem. The synopsis of the Q/A session is shared below.

1. Advanced Dynamics

  • Is Advanced Dynamics developing any electric bicycles in Bangladesh?
    Yes, it is in process and we’re collaborating on the B2B space, but not on the retail/ bikesharing market.
  • What kind of batteries does Advanced Dynamics use?
    Advanced Dynamics uses LFP batteries, a variation of lithium-ion, but they also use other chemistries.
  • What is the cost reduction in terms of per km?
    We are looking at a 30-40% cheaper in 5 years cost of ownership than conventional trucks.

2. Lily

  • Is Lily going to train the women entrepreneurs, and will they ride these bikes to provide service?

Training the women entrepreneurs to ride the motorbikes is a time-consuming process and it is also not scalable. So, Lily is incorporating women in their delivery jobs.

  • Are these women going to be on your payroll?

It is a hybrid model. Lily initially started with payroll.

  • Are you going to introduce vehicles?

Yes, Lily will launch the EV pilot project in the next couple of months, and they are going to purchase these vehicles for the time being. However, this is a new concept, so investors are not aware of their yield by making these investments. So, Lily is going to purchase the vehicles themselves.

  • Could you give a little bit of insight into your revenue model?

It is pretty similar to any other e-commerce. There are both products and services. For services, they have signed up the local tailors who visit the customers and collect required details and drop them at the nearest partnered tailor shop. With every service, they take a commission. 

Lily is introducing products like dresses, accessories, etc. Lily takes commissions for these products, which is close to 5%.

3. Jobike 

  • How much does a Jobike cost?

The conventional bike that we have now costs 235 $-250 $. The e-bike that Jobike is going to introduce costs over 750$.

  • Is it safe to ride bikes in Dhaka city?

Jobike is not going to be launched everywhere. Their prime target is Gulshan, Banani, and other residential areas. They do not plan on introducing their e-bikes out on the main road. Hence, it is safe.

  • Do you need any special permission for that?

Yes, Permission from Dhaka North City Corporation is needed. Jobike already has permission to launch anywhere in Dhaka.

  • How big is the market that you are projecting in the coming year?

Currently, the market is worth 500 billion dollars, which includes both conventional and e-bikes. Cantonment, EPZ, residential areas, and tourist areas are the primary markets here. Jobike can provide service to 20 million users if they can cover the whole market.

  • Do you see the rising middle-class community as a driver for the growth of this market?

Jobike has 150,000 users for 300 bicycles. So, it has vast potential.

4. DhakaCast

  • Why does DhakaCast focus only on Diabetic patients and not all sorts of healthcare solutions?

The increased number of diabetic patients in Dhaka is essentially the main reason for focusing only on diabetic patients. Diabetes has an impact on other organs of the body. To solve different health problems, they need to visit multiple areas. DhakaCast looks forward to solving this issue.

  • How much cost can be reduced by introducing EVs?

Right now, on average, DhakaCast is spending 2.3$, but with the integration of EV, this can be reduced to 0.3$. This is based on their initial research. According to this research, 30-40% cost can be reduced.

  • How many do you need if you intend to bring in EV bikes?

Initially, DhakaCast will introduce 10 EV bikes for testing in Dhaka city. Upon positive response, they will introduce more.

  • What is the break-even period?

DhakaCast’s break-even period is after four and half years.

5. SOLshare

  • From where do you source the batteries from?

Right now, SOLshare is importing from China

Main Participants of the Event:

  1. Syed Saif, Co-Founder & CEO, Lily
  2. Mehedi Reza, Co-Founder & CEO, Jobike
  3. Fahreen Hannan, Co-Founder & CEO, DhakaCast
  4. Tauseef Anwar, Co-Founder & CBO, Advanced Dynamics
  5. Sebastian Groh, Managing Director, SOLshare
  6. Zia Hassan Siddique, Co-Founder & COO, Dana
  7. Shahriar Rahman, Senior Manager & Focal Point, Sustainable Finance Unit, Risk Management Division, BRAC Bank
  8. Sadat Ahmed Khan, Head of SME and Agricultural Finance Division, Social Islami Bank Limited (SIBL)
  9. Fayez Ahmed, Investment Manager, Startup Bangladesh Limited
  10. Jakirul Islam, Senior Vice President, Bank Asia
  11. Mohammad Jahangir Alam, Executive Vice President and Cluster Head, City Bank
  12. Ahmed Jawad, Asociate, Bangladesh Angels
  13. Shawkat Hossain, General Secretary, VCPEAB
  14. Nurul Hai, Vice President , SEAF Bangladesh
  15. Tazul Islam, Investment Lead, BD Venture