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The Silver Lining Around A Crisis!

As we slowly limp our way to some level of normalcy, the world as we knew it B.C. and A.C. (Before Corona and After Corona) will be very different from each other.

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Mr. Naveen Munjal, Managing Director of Hero Electric taking a pledge

“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before.” ~Rahm Emanuel

The COVID-19 crisis has left in its’ path devastation, both from a health and economic standpoint, and our hearts go out to all those affected by this pandemic. This crisis will leave a lasting impact on everybody. Although several industries and sectors are bound to be affected negatively, this is also a chance to restart. 

As we slowly limp our way to some level of normalcy, the world as we knew it B.C. and A.C. (Before Corona and After Corona) will be very different from each other. What was considered ‘normal’ during B.C. time would now be considered sacrilege during A.C. time.

There is, however, a silver lining, which I believe will come out of this crisis. The opportunities that lie ahead for some sectors are going to be immense. Electric Vehicles is one such industry that I believe will benefit post the current crisis. 

The biggest beneficiary of the present lockdown is our environment itself. We have never seen the air so crisp, the stars so bright and our rivers so clean. We now have a newfound respect for nature. India, which was notorious for having the most polluted cities in the world, suddenly, barely makes the cut now. The Ozone hole, 10 times the size of Greenland has now healed! These are some aha! moments that we must cherish as just a few weeks back this seemed like an impossible mission. 

If we look at the automotive sector and transportation, it is poised to witness a substantial transformation. Social distancing is going to be the new norm and will drive people towards personal mobility across segments. Commuters will shy away from using our already overloaded public transport even if there’s some level of social distancing being maintained as that would not guarantee health safety for the passengers. If safe levels of social distancing are to be maintained in our public mobility, then it would be virtually impossible to move the masses. 

I foresee this drifting a large number of public transport users towards personal mobility. As far as new purchase decisions are concerned, we have seen in the past that across economies recovering from downturns, the consumers, especially in the case of automobiles generally end up gravitating towards entry-level vehicles where the initial purchase price is low and so is the TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).

Besides TCO, which is very low in the case of EVs (Electric Vehicles), another very important factors in the favour of the EV camp are the ease of use, convenience, and substantially lower cost to operate than a counterpart IC (Internal Combustion) engine vehicle. No more going to the petrol station to fill fuel. Easily remove your portable battery from your vehicle, take it up to your apartment or office to charge and once charged, plug it back in the vehicle and use it for a range of 60-80 km per charge., and if you’re a heavy user, we offer you vehicles which can go beyond 150 kms per charge. No coming in contact with various potentially ‘dangerous’ touch-points while using public transport to commute and no more queuing up at petrol pumps to fill your vehicle. Just Plug-In, Charge, and Ride!

Apart from the vehicle, the entire customer experience of buying and servicing vehicles is slated to change. I anticipate the retail experience will be a hybrid model between physical ‘touch and feel’ and digital, and individually targeted experiences will be embraced by both companies and consumers alike. With dealerships becoming smaller and more efficient, virtual experiences will become more common. They may not need to hold the level of inventory that they earlier held since a lot of the test drives and customer experiences would be at their respective homes.

Service will undergo a paradigm shift and ‘at home’ service will become more and more prevalent shortly. At-home service is easy to implement for Electric Vehicles. At Hero Electric, we have already been providing such services in several cities and expanding this very rapidly to other parts of the country. 

A shift towards zero-emission mobility is not only required from an environmental impact standpoint but also our dependence on imported oil for the automotive industry. It’s just a matter of time before the much-needed disruption in the automotive sector takes place making commercial sense to set up large-scale battery manufacturing units in India.

There is no doubt that the government is well cognizant of the benefits of clean mobility and the introduction of the FAME policy (Fast Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles) in 2015 followed by FAME II in 2019 is a credible proof.

If I were to consolidate the need of the hour from the perspective of the collective health of the community and the economic impact thereof, it is clear the industry needs a certain fillip to be able to kick-off. I would love to see the inclusion of ‘City Speed’ vehicles in the current and new policies as they have shown early adoption success in the past. Another critical area is to make the electric vehicles accessible by innovative financing options and it might not be too far-fetched an idea to see the inclusion of EV’s in the Swachh Baharat mission because an Atmanirbhar Bharat (Self Reliant India) calls for bold reforms.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Naveen Munjal

The author is Managing Director, Hero Electric

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