Do you think India is the next automotive superpower? What role do SMEs have to play in this?
India sure is well positioned on the launch pad. To get into the automotive superpower cyber space, our launch vehicle will need some more innovative support. As long as it was an ICE technology game, as was in the recent past, we would have started our countdown for the blast by now. Unfortunately, with the game shifting to EVs, our launch has taken a pause. Much now depends on EV technology. A good push will hurtle us into the superpower league.
SMEs will need to play a major supportive role for our EV launch success. Going forward, I believe OEMs will tend to outsource more. Small and medium enterprises will thus, get bigger opportunities to support EV parts and manufacturing services. SMEs, on their part, will need to invest in new technologies to get more standardised.
Automotive is one of the core sectors of the Indian economy. How are the automotive companies in India setting the trajectory for India's overall growth? What are the imperatives for the industry?
We know how Indian automotive companies are shifting the focus from combustion to electric. They are also in the mode of adopting and inducting Industry 4.0 into their growth process. This change will drive and force others to change. SMEs will need to induct and support Industry 4.0 technology. Customers will need to adapt to new EV charging developments, app / bot-based interactions versus the familiar customer care voices. These are all game changers. With a large technological savvy manpower base, India sure stands to reap rewards in the coming decade.
How can India become influential in terms of EVs with robust vehicles and changes in the ecosystem?
My belief is that EV technology needs to evolve further to help reduce vehicle cost and increase battery life as also battery running / replacement cost. This will help boost EV sales, especially in the highly cost-conscious Indian mind. India is known to have brains, thus we need to leverage and deploy this asset in active EV research and come up with low cost solutions. On the other hand, the government needs to engage in preparing and ensuring that EV charging infrastructure is plentifully available to support this upcoming growth.
The mobility landscape will fundamentally transform over the next 10 to 15 years, with the ACES (autonomous driving, connected cars, electrified vehicles and shared mobility) trends. What opportunities does this evolving landscape present to the Indian automotive industry? How does it help it gain a competitive advantage?
Indians need to engage more in R&D. We mostly depend on others for technology development. This is one place where we need change. India could well take the driver’s seat for designing the future technology and products, be it EVs, Industry 4.0 products or services, autonomous vehicles etc. This opportunity is up for grabs. It is a well-known fact that the designer always gets a head-start. To verify, you needn’t look far but at our hand-held apple phones. Indians, too, can build a competitive advantage by shifting focus to R&D now – for new products required in the next few decades.
What does India in 2022 look like for the automotive sector, according to you? What strategies have to be instilled to ensure your organisation is a key contributor to the Indian economy?
In 1996, I recall my moment of pride when we successfully rolled out a German product, an Opel Astra, from a plant in Gujarat. Then, Astra was far ahead in technology versus other cars on the Indian road. Since then, the environment has totally changed. Competition is immense. Superior technology of the 90s is now standard technology of the 2020s. In 2022, most MNC car brands we know have made their presence felt on Indian roads. And new successful brands, like Tesla, are at the harbour, waiting to drive in. For this particular year, 2022, of course, the chips are down. Production numbers, thus, will remain constrained in the short-term till more chips reach the conveyor belts. SUVs are more in demand. Sedans are getting back pedalled. Our long-term story, though, is intact. The future does belong to India.