The 2018 Auto Expo held in the country showcased around 50 electric vehicles (EVs) in conjunction to the very ambitious plan of the centre to make all vehicles running on Indian roads electric by 2030. The move is part of an unprecedented effort to decrease vehicle pollution and more importantly, decrease India’s dependency on imported crude oil. Only around 0.02% of all new vehicles sold in India in 2016 were electric while as many as 2.5 million conventional vehicles were sold. This only shows the huge potential market for EVs once they do become mainstream.
Since EVs are undoubtedly becoming mainstream in the next decade or so, is it too early to start marketing?
The answer is somewhat of a paradox. Even though EVs constitute less than 0.5% of the current vehicles on the road, the interest shown by the general public and automobile manufacturers is immense. Prospective marketing is what this calls for. Mahindra & Mahindra, who recently entered the EV market with the E20 and Reva has tasted immense success through prospective marketing for their electric vehicles.
The cost comparison to conventional vehicles is another selling point. Lithium Urban uses Mahindra & Mahindra’s E20 to ferry corporate employees. Ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Ola are also using EVs as a part of their fleet. The business model of these brands ensures that the vehicles cover the 175-200 kilometres daily which is the minimum amount required to break even. “It costs under one rupee per kilometer on an electric car compared with four to five rupees on a diesel or petrol vehicle,” Joy Nandi (head of NCR-Lithium Urban) said.
The Indian EV industry will be following a strategy completely inverted to that which was followed in the West. EV giants such as Tesla started off in the EV sector with luxury offerings and only recently have they expanded to the lower ranges. The Indian industry aims to start from the lower end, which they already have and gradually expand into the premium segment. Despite Tesla recently announcing its plans to bring itself into India, the older, established brands have a huge advantage largely attributed to the trust that they have built up in the past few decades. Any outsider who aims to crack the EV market are going to have their hands full since they’ll have to study consumer patterns and habits, priorities and most importantly, understanding the exaggerated notion of value for money by the Indian automobile buyer.
But keeping all this in mind, both the government and the automobile manufacturers must not forget to take into account evolving personas of the consumer. EVs are still a taboo, they still will be 3 years down the line, albeit to a much lesser extent. 10 years down the line however, EV are most supposedly going to be mainstream. Most people who purchase vehicles do not do so with the sole purpose of going from A to B. A vehicle is much more than a means of transport and whether we like it or not, the advent of EV is only going to increase this social symbolism.
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