Indian automobile giant Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) is one of the brands looking at sustainable growth, a reason why it has made a large thrust into the electric vehicles segment. Now in 2016, it is looking to grow the electric vehicle market in India and has done this by already launching four new electric vehicles during the year. To further bolster the growth of technology in this segment the Anand Mahindra-led group has also participated actively in the Formula E electric car racing circuit. Mahesh Babu, CEO of Mahindra Electric, spoke to Collin Furtado on the future of electric vehicles.
For which cars will Mahindra come up with electric version?
One set of our portfolio has been launched, now we are looking at how the market reacts with this. The market has to adapt to these things. In the next phase of electrification, we will decide based on value the customer wants after doing a customer study now to understand which vehicle is more customer to embrace than what we have in hand. It will come over a period of time.
Will you use the learnings from Formula E into creating passenger vehicles?
The technology will be stretched in the Formula E space and we will constantly evaluate the strategy on energy management, the efficiency in drive. But we will also be constantly looking at high performance and how we can leverage and quickly commercialise it to the customers. We are present here to make sure technologies are globally competitive and do a cross deployment of learning to commercial customers. Formula E is for the synergy between the technology group which will help in the future.
Has Mahindra made use of any of Tesla’s free patents on electric cars?
We have not used any of Tesla’s patents because we had our own patents in electric technology. We have been in the electric business before Tesla was. We have our own patents around electrification.
How long do you estimate for India to become a large enough market for electric vehicles?
It should happen in the next two to three years. Most pessimistically it should happen in 5 years.
What is market currently for electric vehicles in India?
The full market of electric vehicles in India is close to 1% of automobile market. This includes two-wheelers, four-wheelers and others. Even globally electric vehicle market is not very big, it is little bit over 1% of the automobile market.
What are your plans on the marketing and advertising front?
We are doing test drives for cars. We also do campaigns such as K2K, which was a drive from Kashmir to Kanyakumari in our our electric cars in a months time. This was to educate customers that electric vehicles can run across any terrain. You can even charge it at any 15AMP plug point. There are a lot of myths around electric vehicles and we are trying to burst them by doing such campaigns. Most of our customers are like evangelists. The 30-40% of the customers who are used to electric cars realise that this technology is not a very complex one and is user-friendly. We have a central server to monitor the car. Slowly this is building up and we are doing a lot around it.
What are the ad spends of Mahindra Electric?
For K2K, we do print ads, we also have websites to come and understand it. We have regional launches and spend time around it. We personally go and meet existing customers once in 3-4 months. In addition, we put displays in malls and do all that we can to propagate and make electric vehicles popular in India. The company is not only focusing on pollution, but is also trying to tell customers that driving an electric vehicle is cheaper in running cost than regular vehicles. People are realizing that it is just not the environmental part. It makes economical sense over the life cycle of the car in buying it.