India is still in a nascent stage in completely changing to clean vehicles to reduce transport pollution on its roads. At this stage, E-vehicles such as E-cars and E-rickshaws are a welcome introduction on the Indian roads, not only in their contribution to reduction to pollution but also in creating new jobs. Read on to find on the various dimensions of this newly emerging sector.
PM: Please give an overview of the prospects of the rate of expansion of e-vehicles by Mahindra and Mahindra in the Indian market - how much it has expanded in last 1 year and how much it is projected to expand in the next 3-4 years. Also, what segments of the market it is targeting?
MB: Mahindra Electric has been the pioneers of electric mobility in India for close to a decade now. With a varied portfolio, including the all-electric hatchback e2oPlus, the electric sedan eVerito and the electric commercial vehicle eSupro (passenger and cargo), Mahindra Electric targets a wide audience and has the end goal of making it easy for all segments to adopt EVs. Up until last year, the sales of our vehicles were mostly focussed on retail customers and the resultant numbers were also in three or four digits per year. However, 2017 has been a very exciting year for the EV industry as a whole. The government announced its positive support towards EVs with vision 2030, a lot of favorable policy announcements have also come about since. In parallel, we strengthened our portfolio to include the eVerito of the fleet segment, eSupro for the commercial segment and the eAlfa Mini three-wheeler. We also worked with a lot of partners to pilot unique shared electric mobility models. In addition, we pioneered several ecosystem interventions like introducing leasing option for retail electric vehicles, developing connectivity for fleet players with NEMO platform, unveiling MESMA 380 V modular and scalable platform on the technology front etc. The government also put out one of the largest EV tenders across the world, of 10000 EVs, and we are happy that we bagged a substantial part of that.
Overall, the entire EV segment has picked up momentum. From here on, we are expecting the fleet and mass mobility segments to take the lead on EV adoption. With operational costs being considerably lower than fossil fuel powered vehicles, these segments have a very strong business case to adopt EVs while giving more people an opportunity to experience EVs first hand. The next 3-4 years are going to be very crucial as the industry grows and determines the path ahead. It is all of our responsibility now to sustain this momentum.
PM: What is the volume of job creations with the expansion of e-vehicles - with regards to e-bus, e-rickshaw and e-cars ventures of Mahindra and Mahindra? Is it possible to get some statistics about the rate of job creation in this field in the last 1 year and in the coming 4-5 years?
MB: Last year has been exciting, not just for the EV market externally, but also for Mahindra Electric internally. Currently, 26% of our employees are new team members who joined us over the span of the last year alone, indicating at a very healthy growth rate. With present expansion plans in place, we will be adding close to 40% more people to the organization. Being the first EV manufacturer in the country, we offer unique and fulfilling opportunities, which attract the best of the talents from across the globe. It is very heartening to see the eagerness of the young generation to work in the EV industry. For eg. in just the last quarter, we have had close to 20,000 people reach out to us through popular digital platforms for various roles here at ME. Also, to ensure that we scale up appropriately, a considerable portion of our expansion budgets are focused towards the development and growth of our team, both in terms of size and quality. So while we work on having the best of trainings and resources available for skill development, we also are working vigorously to add the best minds from and for the EV sector, to our teams.
PM: Are there any training programmes of Mahindra and Mahindra for its staff engaged in the e-vehicle sectors? Please give details of the nature of training available to them.
MB: As pioneers of electric mobility in India, we are one of the largest groups of people in the country, currently engaged in creating viable EV products and technologies for the market. To ensure that we continue to remain ahead of the curve, we ensure that our teams receive not just access to world-class training but also ample space and opportunity to work with industry experts, experiment on their own and innovate to create unique solutions. We hire experts from around the world so that our teams work with and learn from the best out there; 7 PhDs already, we are looking to increase this number soon. We are setting up innovation and R&D centers, the first of their kind in the country, giving space to the teams to innovate and deliver exceptional technologies. In parallel, we are also working to create training modules which deliver the required knowledge and building a strong base for people to build on. Last year alone, we had the teams engage in close to 2000 man days of training. But this is just an indication towards the future that we are envisioning, to create a strong team of Mahindra EV experts for India.
However, as pioneers of the EV space in India, we recognize the fact that the sector needs more than experts on EVs inside the organization. Hence, we also focus our energies on training dealership staff member who is going to be the face of EVs to the customers, both for sales and service. We also actively engage with the student community through events like the popular annual event – Baja. There is much excitement amongst student about EVs and that’s visible through the growing participation in eBaja. We work with their teams closely to share our learnings with them and help them develop their skills further.
PM: What are the main challenges that the Mahindra and Mahindra employees face in the marketing of e-vehicle sector?
MB: Mahindra Electric has been the sole player in the EV industry and continues to lead the way even today. This is a unique position to be in but brings with it the characteristics of a nascent and developing industry. Our marketing efforts are focused not just on selling our EVs, but also towards educating the country about EVs. Concepts like charging, range, battery health etc. are completely new to generations which have been brought up on fossil fuel powered vehicles. We take initiatives ranging from digital campaigns to on ground events to reach out to as many people as possible. A few years ago, we also drove our EVs from Kashmir to Kanyakumari to bust the myth that EVs can’t go the distance. We continuously explore such innovative approaches to educate people about EVs and help increase adoption.
Since this task has never been done before it allows our teams to experiment and do exciting work in this space. At Mahindra Electric, all of our teams work as ambassadors of EVs for the world outside of our organization.
PM: In 2017, Mahindra and Mahindra made forays into the e-rickshaws on a large scale. How far do you think e-rickshaws can replace the small personal cars on the road with this venture?
MB: India is one of the largest markets for three wheelers across the world. The projected increase in demand for this segment is also very steep, from 6.85 million in 2017 to almost 66 million by 2050 (TERI estimates 2017). This indicates the heavy usage of three-wheelers in Indian cities and towards the huge opportunity of having more people use EVs through electric three-wheelers. After the launch of the eAlfa Mini last year, we are now gearing up to launch the first Lithium-ion battery powered three-wheeler – Treo, which was unveiled in the Auto Expo earlier this year; with the aim to strengthen our portfolio further. While yes, we are expecting the electric three-wheeler market to increase rapidly, we aren’t foreseeing the small cars being impacted as a result since three-wheelers are being used primarily for last mile connectivity. However, we believe that the mobility patterns for personal mobility will shift from ownership to ridership, increasing the scope for shared mobility exponentially.