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Driving Future: Mr. Mahesh Babu, CEO of Mahindra Electric in an exclusive interview

Mr. Mahesh Babu, one of the leading business leader and CEO of Mahindra Electric Mobility Ltd. in a candid discussion with our Editorial Team.

 

Q1. Mahesh thank you for your time and pleasure chatting with you, firstly would like to ask you, how has been your journey so far as CEO of Mahindra Electric?

My journey with Mahindra and Mahindra began back in 1998. Over the past 18 years I have worked extensively in the technology and product development space. This has definitely helped me connect with a technology oriented organisation like Mahindra Electric.

It is an exciting time for Electric Vehicles in India and it is an honour for me to lead the team at Mahindra Electric at this juncture. I am very happy to be leading an organisation with a unique mix of the strength of Mahindra policy and process framework and the agility of a start-up.

The environment at the organisation is very different than a stable automotive business. It is based on technology and constant innovation, which requires us to be nimble and fast in our operations/decision making. As pioneers, our efforts are always towards growing the EV industry along with growing our organisation. After all, what we do today is going to define mobility tomorrow.

 

Q2. How challenging is your role as CEO of electric vehicle as unlike some of your counterparts you also have extra responsibility of educating the consumer and help build infrastructure for the electric car in India?

Electric Mobility is all set to make a big impact here in India and as the pioneers in this space, we have a larger responsibility. This doesn’t limit to simply manufacturing and selling products, but also extends to educating customers, identifying the right kind of EVs for India and developing the same, exploring innovative mobility solutions, participate and help move the ecosystem related discussions forward etc.

We take multiple initiatives to promote the EV cause, like the electric expedition from Kashmir to Kanyakumari – proving that EVs can travel the distance; or the joint launch of EVs in fleet with the government and Ola making Nagpur one of the first cities in India to get electric vehicles for shared transportation. We proactively look to explore new and innovative models of mobility. Along with this, we also run multiple digital campaigns to reach out to more and more people.

I think this journey is unique, and it is an experience of a lifetime to drive such a transformation. It definitely makes our work more exciting and fast paced. The team is ideating and executing new things every day! I certainly enjoy this dynamic work culture and learn along with my team at Mahindra Electric

 

Q3. What’s the way forward for electric car market in India? Statistics suggest that there is still long way to go for markets to mature.

The Indian market is very unique in itself. We have an ever increasing percentage of urban migration to already densely populated cities. In such a scenario, mass mobility and last mile connectivity solutions will be the prime movers for EV adoption. The NITI Aayog report on electric vehicles in the Indian context clearly states that the future of mobility for India is going to be – Shared, Electric and Connected. It also covers ecosystem elements like charging infrastructure as a part of the findings. This report is being considered very seriously and will probably guide the industry’s growth in the country. The government’s support and lead will take precedence for this scenario to become a reality.

Our strategy is aligned towards the above and we will soon be launching mass mobility vehicles like electric buses and three wheelers. This strategy, along with initiatives to create Charging infrastructure through fast-charging and battery-swapping will speed up the transformation towards electric mobility.  With such developments happening on all aspects of the ecosystem, the electric car market in India is just at the brink of exponential growth!

 

Q4. What support items you need from Government that will help electric vehicle industry?

The stage is set for favourable policies as well as an active push for adoption of EVs coming from the government. We believe that this is going to make India one of the leading players in the global EV mobility space. The FAME scheme has been in place for a few years and has helped drive adoption till date. The government recently also announced an extension on the same, indicating its commitment towards EVs. This has been supported by state level policies, like the one at Delhi which offers an additional subsidy of INR 1.5 lakh over and above the FAME benefit. We are expecting this push to get even more aggressive and bring with it a new era of Indian mobility. The May launch of the electric fleet in Nagpur, a joint project between the Mahindra Electric, Government of India and Ola; is a great example of this.

Apart from financial support, the government is actively working on developing the Bharat Charging standards for the country, which will cater to both low and high voltage charging systems. We are hopeful that as soon as the government rolls out these standards, there will be a substantial addition to the momentum with which the development of charging infrastructure is going forward.

Another important area where the government can support is by leading the nation from the front and adopting EVs for government department transportation requirements. This will work as a good confidence booster for the citizens of the country. We also believe that until the cost of EV technologies is high and the sale volumes are low, government support would be needed in incentivising local production. Such steps will definitely impact the entire ecosystem of EVs.

 

Q5. Our readers would like to know that as a successful business leader what is your mantra for success? What is the key to be a successful leader?

My mantra is simple – create, test, learn and refine, all at lightning pace! In an environment where complete disruption is the only way forward, we at Mahindra Electric completely rely on this strategy. This coupled with a close customer connect helps us receive direct validation from the market, making our future planning even better.

To be a successful leader, a concept that I have always admired and followed is that of being a ‘servant leader’. I focus on developing a strong team based on their aspirations and attitude and then work with them towards creating a higher purpose. This makes us collectively responsible to achieve it and gives clear unbiased direction towards decision making.

 

Q6. While you yourself are role model for many however who are your role models or leaders who have inspired you over the period of time?

I recollect being inspired by my father early on in my childhood and I think of him as my first role model.  Under his guidance I learnt that in life, creating value is way more important than creating wealth. In fact, I found this to be a deep seated value in the Mahindra and Mahindra culture as well.Perhaps that is what helped me identify with it at a level which goes beyond just business. This connect helps me feel completely at home!

If I talk about my current inspirations, I wouldn’t be able to name just one person. There are different behaviour patterns that inspire me in different people. As a simple example, as a student, I started to emulate the things I admired in different teachers - whether it was my thermodynamics teacher’s eye for detail and in-depth study or the warm camaraderie that my lab assistant used to keep us engaged and on task. I think there is always something to appreciate in every person and the trick lies in how one manages to identify and inculcate the best qualities in their daily lives.

 

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