What’s the inspiration behind Strom Motors?
It really started as an in-house R&D side project where we studied future market trends. One night while working at the lab in Mumbai, we realized we couldn’t solve the electric mobility problem with data and incremental solutions—we needed something more. So we went to work and started building.
At first, we had to go to junkyards and old bazaars in Mumbai to get used car parts. Within a week, we had our first rolling chassis. I still remember calling my wife at 10 p.m. to come and see what we were up to. She and my son (who was 4 at the time) were the first ones to try out our concept car. That night we knew we had something that could change the personal mobility landscape.
Why electric vehicles?
I grew up in the coastal city of Mumbai. Projections show that by 2050, major parts of my home city will be underwater. Switching to electric mobility can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This could buy us more time to develop the technologies we need to reverse climate change in the coming decades.
Prior to founding Strom Motors, you worked with NASA! What was that like?
Working with an incredibly talented bunch of engineers at NASA early in my career helped reinforce the belief that if you are ready to work hard on a problem, you can solve it. It also made me realize the importance of team dynamics. I learned to prioritize the quality of ideas over the seniority of the person.
At Strom, we intentionally built a flat organization to avoid any idea bottlenecks. Everyone works toward a common goal: to put a world-class product on the market.
How did you make the jump from engineer to founder?
In 2012, I decided to move back to India and start my own R&D company with Jean-Luc and Dr. Gilmer Blankenship. Our vision was to apply the right technology to solve hard problems. With AdSkipper and E14 Technologies, we brought products to market in industries like renewable energy, entertainment and automation. The products were great, but my biggest area of personal growth was learning how to acquire and inspire the best talent and work in small teams.
Why did you opt for a three-wheeled design?
Entry-level electric hatchback cars still cost upwards of $30,000 in the US and even more around the world. The major reason behind these high prices is weight. Even compact four-wheeled hatchbacks weigh well over 3,000 pounds and require massive batteries for ranges of only 150 miles. Our reverse trike three-wheeled platform reduces weight by almost half, which increases drive efficiency 3X. We were able to price Strom-R3 for less than $10,000—while maintaining the right balance between comfort and easy mobility.
What are the top challenges you’ve faced while launching your company?
Trying to get suppliers, designers and other partners on board with our idea was the single biggest challenge we faced when we first started. Convincing multinational Tier 1 automotive suppliers to work with a small startup was particularly challenging—we had to help them see the power of our concept and understand the vision of Strom. Now we boast a stellar group of suppliers, including some of the very best in the industry.
Why did you decide to raise from the crowd?
Crowdfunding through Republic presents a unique opportunity to start building a brand and product following even before reaching the market. It’s heartening to see people backing the vision of young companies. These people get to participate in the exceptionally exciting journey of a startup from early on.
For us, it's important that we connect with smart investors and eco-warriors in our journey who can help us spread the word and accelerate this change.
What’s your team culture like?
The Strom team is more like family. We have a diverse group of engineers from all over the country who have come together to share in this exciting experience.
The pandemic lockdowns were extremely difficult on everyone, including us. In April of 2020, we were looking at the unfortunate possibility of pay cuts across the board. I knew I could count on our team, so I sent an email asking everyone to volunteer how much of a cut they could afford to take. The responses I got were humbling. Some team members even volunteered to take 70% pay cuts for the benefit of others.
This unfortunate time has clearly brought us closer. I will never forget what we went through together.
What is your superpower?
I believe my startup superpower is the ability to drive a team of young engineers to push their own boundaries and achieve something much bigger than the sum of all. It's wonderful to see a team of 15 engineers with less than $700,000 in funding build a beautiful product that’s cleared and ready for production.
What’s your kryptonite?
I struggle with time management. When I feel stuck, I usually turn to my co-founder and advisor Jean-Luc, who has experience running startups and large organizations.
Do you have any unusual routines or habits?
I have picked up lots of superstitions in the last few years. I have to shine my shoes before a meeting, even if the meeting is over Zoom. I only cut my nails on Tuesdays. I know these don’t make any sense, but sometimes it just helps calm things down a little.
Do you have any other hobbies or things you like to do in your spare time?
I love playing tennis. It's something that I will get up in the morning for, even if I got home at 2 a.m. after a long flight. I also enjoy going out with family and friends on the weekends, and playing soccer with my son.
Do you have any mentors? If so, what have they taught you?
My mentor has to be my professor from grad school, Dr. Gilmer Blankenship. He has a special talent for giving you the freedom to make your own mistakes and learn from them, even when he knows you are making a mistake. I have learned from him that it's very important to let young engineers rack up their own set of failures and experience.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
If you enjoy the process, you are already winning.