NIIF leads late-stage venture deal for electric two-wheeler maker Ather

 NIIF leads late-stage venture deal for electric two-wheeler maker Ather

The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), a quasi-sovereign fund manager of India, has struck its second late-stage venture style transaction, via its direct private equity fund—the NIIF Strategic Opportunities Fund (SOF).

Electric two-wheeler company Ather Energy said Thursday it has wrapped up its Series E round of funding worth $128 million with NIIF’s SOF and existing backer Hero MotoCorp and other unnamed investors.

Ather Energy said it plans to use the funding to expand manufacturing facilities, invest in R&D, charging infrastructure and to grow its retail network.

The firm claimed it registered the highest ever monthly sales in April 2022 delivering 3,779 units to customers. Booking orders for Ather’s flagship product, the Ather 450X, is growing at 25% quarter-on-quarter.

Ather Energy currently has a retail sales network spanning 32 cities with 38 centres and aims to expand it to 150 centres in 100 cities by 2023.

Tarun Mehta, CEO, Ather Energy, said: “The switch to electric is inevitable and FY22 was the turning point for electric two-wheeler adoption in India. The current round of investment will help us enhance capacities across the board, bring additional focus on new platforms, expand into new geographies, expand our fast-charging network and double down on the reputation we’ve built for making a product that’s high on quality.”

This is NIIF’s first direct investment in the manufacturing sector and in electric mobility. For the SOF, this is the fifth investment following its investments in two group infrastructure financing NBFCs (Aseem Infrastructure Finance and NIIF IFL), besides Manipal Hospitals and FirstCry.

Padmanabh Sinha, Executive Director and Chief Investment Officer at NIIF, said, “Aligned to India’s green transition mission, the electric two-wheeler industry is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. Ather Energy has indigenously designed and developed products with a high degree of domestic sourcing of components and adaptability to Indian conditions.”

The SOF invests through both active minority stakes and control-oriented/incubation deals. It was established to build a portfolio of large entrepreneur-led or professionally managed domestic companies including unicorns or startups with a valuation of $1 billion or more.

It focuses on sectors such as financial services, food and agriculture, healthcare and education.

Overall, NIIF manages more than $4.3 billion of equity capital commitments across a Master Fund, a Fund of Funds and SOF. The NIIF Master Fund mainly invests in operating assets in core infrastructure sectors such as transportation and energy. The Fund of Funds invests in private equity and venture capital funds as an LP.

Founded in 2013 by IIT Madras alumni, Tarun Mehta and Swapnil Jain, Ather launched its first electric scooter in 2018 followed by the new flagship in 2020. With more than 310 charging points across India, Ather Grid is one of the country’s largest fast-charging networks for electric scooters.

It currently operates in 32 cities including Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune, Jaipur, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Mysore, Guwahati, and Hubli.

Ather Energy also counts among its backers Flipkart cofounders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, and Tiger Global.

Vivek Sinha

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