Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Chara Technologies: Building motors sans rare earth metals

Three entrepreneurs are developing a class of synchronous reluctance motors that can power EVs to tillers

Harichandan Arakali
Published: Jul 9, 2024 11:16:41 AM IST
Updated: Jul 9, 2024 11:19:30 AM IST


Bhaktha Keshavachar (right) and Mahalingam Kaushik, co-founders at Chara
Image: Neha Mithbawkar for Forbes India
Bhaktha Keshavachar (right) and Mahalingam Kaushik, co-founders at Chara Image: Neha Mithbawkar for Forbes India
 
When Bhaktha Keshavachar, co-founder and CEO of Chara Technologies, sat down with this writer for the first time, last December, it was at a startup conference at the IIM-Ahmedabad’s Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship, now referred to as IIMA Ventures. “We are grey-haired or even hairless founders,” he joked, referring to how his two fellow founders of the Bengaluru company and himself don’t fit the stereotype of two youngsters fresh out of college.

Keshavachar started his career with Sharp Laboratories in the US almost 30 years ago. He spent more than 12 years at Intel before turning serial entrepreneur. His latest venture before Chara was co-founding Ezetap Mobile Solutions, which was acquired by Razorpay.

Ravi Prasad, Chara’s co-founder and chief motor designer, was previously head of motor design at Kirloskar Motors and founder of a motor design consultancy that built specialised motors for large multinational customers.


Bhaktha Keshavachar (right) and Mahalingam Kaushik, co-founders at Chara
Image: Neha Mithbawkar for Forbes India
Mahalingam Kaushik, co-founder and CTO, brings his embedded electronics wizardry to Chara and is responsible for much of the intellectual property the startup has generated.

Together, the trio brings a century of deep science and engineering knowledge to the products they are developing—a class of motors called synchronous reluctance motors, often called SynRMs in the industry. An important feature of such motors is that they can be designed to eliminate magnets that need rear earth metals.

Applications of such motors range from electric vehicles (EV) to industrial and HVAC systems, and even household appliances like washing machines. Chara is backed by investors like Exfinity Venture Partners, Kalaari Capital and IIMA Ventures.

Over six months or so, there have been three major developments at the company, Keshavachar says in a recent interview. First, Chara has a dozen customers placing initial orders, mostly for use in electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers. VST Tillers and Tractors, an agri equipment maker, is also interested and, in the defence sector, Chara’s motor and the controller that goes with it have caught the attention of Tata Advanced Systems.

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Other well-known industrial names that are evaluating Chara’s first motor include Ingersoll Rand and Lucas TVS. Among startups, “our favourite is one where they are trying to retrofit an autorickshaw with an electric powertrain”, he says.

Largescale production is expected to start in August, at a factory in Bengaluru’s Peenya industrial area. “We are starting with our pilot production lot and then we will ramp to full capacity of about 500 to 600 motors per month,” Kaushik says. This is sufficient for the orders Chara is anticipating over the next 12 months, Keshavachar says. “Going forward, we will either do contract manufacturing or have manufacturing partnerships with large companies,” he adds. The company has an internal target to ship 4,000 motors by this fiscal.

And Chara has started work on developing a motor management platform that can be used to manage motors remotely for diagnostics, predictive maintenance, and remotely updating software. 

(This story appears in the 12 July, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)