“Electric vehicles or clean-energy vehicles are the future.”
Dr Pawan Goenka, executive director & president, Automotive & FES, Mahindra & Mahindra, speaks to Animesh Das on why the company will continue supporting this event.
Last month, Mahindra & Mahindra completed its eighth year as title sponsor of Baja SAE India, the country’s premier ATV competition for engineering students. Dr Pawan Goenka, executive director & president, Automotive & Farm Equipment Sectors, Mahindra & Mahindra, speaks to Animesh Das on why the company plans to continue supporting this event which has students designing, fabricating, manufacturing, testing, and racing their own vehicles against each other.
The theme for Baja SAE India 2015 was ‘Beyond Boundaries’. Did the event live up to the same?
This year’s objective was quality over quantity. Though we had more than 300 teams which wanted to participate, we selected 109, and only about 75 could make it to the track because other cars couldn’t qualify. It was very important for us to do a proper technical evaluation; we were very strict this time. We also increased the complexity or the difficulty of the track this year, which really separates the cars, which are very well designed, very well built, and require tremendous driving skill. And we are very happy with that because we have taken it to what I would consider an international level of difficulty.
So I would say that this eighth Baja, we have now come of age. We are very happy that our engineering students are living up to their expectations of this event. I’m sure that with this year’s experience, next year will be significant improvement because they’ll all go back, with the lessons to learn from this year, and put that in next year’s cars.
This year’s event has achieved the objective that we’d initially set out on, which was to raise the level to what I would consider an international level and, hence, beyond boundaries.
This year also saw the debut of ‘e-Baja’ that extended the competition to electric buggies. What does Mahindra intend to achieve with this?
We believe that electric vehicles or clean-energy vehicles are the future – not just for India, but for the global automobile industry. And we need to promote that at both the OEM level, and the government level.
Therefore, it was very important that students get involved with electric vehicles. Yes, this (year’s e-Baja event) was a very small effort this time, with only eight cars participating. But I’m sure that ‘e-Baja’ will also grow, parallel to the normal Baja. Perhaps, it will become a whole event in itself!
Why does Mahindra stay committed to this event?
Our commitment is manifold. The primary reason is to ignite passion for automobiles in college campuses. That remains the single reason for us. SAE Baja itself has that same objective. Therefore our participation, both in terms of sponsorship money, and volunteer time is to bring that passion.
Every year, three to four thousand students participate in Baja, and get closer to the automotive industry. They get to experience concepts and go beyond classroom learning. Be it designing, fabricating, running, or even teamwork the management ability. All of this helps train engineering students and results in graduates ready for the industry. And, that’s our primary objective.
Of course, it helps build the brand, and there’s no doubt about that. But really, in this particular case, that is secondary. The primary (reason) is to excite the students about the automobile industry, and create auto-passion across college campuses.
This year’s event also saw the highest number of sponsors. What makes this event a red-letter date for the industry?
The kind of support that we have gotten for this, to me, is mind-boggling. We never have to go with a begging bowl to ask sponsors for money. People come forward to sponsor it because everyone can see what the event will do.
It’s not about what it does for a particular company, but it’s about what it does for the ecosystem that we’re trying to create in India. And the students’ attention is unbelievable. So I think, overall, this is one of the best events that I participate in, and I really go back from this event, motivated and energised that the future of the automotive industry, is very bright.
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