Focus on localisation and affordability crucial for connected mobility in India

by Shahkar Abidi & Team Autocar Professional 30 Jun 2021

The dynamics of connectivity across the automobile industry is changing. Be it cars, commercial fleet or the upcoming EVs, often these connected features are proving to be the key product differentiator. For a deeper grasp of this fast changing trend and better, Autocar Professional, hosted a mega ‘Connected Mobility Conclave’.

After the keynote address by Rajendra Petkar, President and CTO, Tata Motors, the conclave was divided into two specific panels delving on the cardinal aspects of the connectivity.

The ‘connectivity’ potential
The speakers of the first panel focussing on ‘Connected Vehicles of the future’ included

  • Bharat Bhushan Head – Strategy, Digital & BD, CVBU, Tata Motors
  • Ram Bhvaraju, Head- Software Development, Ather Energy
  • Brijesh Gubbi, AVP- New Business Strategy, Hyundai Motor India
  • Ashim Sharma, Partner & Group Head – Business Performance Improvement, NRI (Nomura Research Institute) Consulting & Solutions

Dynamics for the OEMs and auto component makers are changing at a fast and furious pace. The phygital focus and growing demand for IoT solutions is inspiring Indian companies to push the innovation envelope.

Bharat Bhushan, Head of Strategy, Digital & BD, CVBU, Tata Motors said that the focus remains to work on multiple areas in order to help the transporters with predictive maintenance, increase up-time, fleet management amongst others. The Company has so far sold over 100,000 CVs with Fleet Edge on road. He outlined how, “transportation cost in India is almost 14 percent of the GDP. The connected vehicle technology can play an important role in reducing transportation cost. For instance, after every trip, analytics can be relayed to customers & OEM to help optimise usage."

As per an analysis by Nomura Research Institute (NRI), a consulting firm, the connected car market in India is expected to grow at 25 percent CAGR to reach around $20 billion market size by the end of current decade. Within it, connected hardware will consist of 80 percent while 20 percent will be software. Ashim Sharma – Partner & Group Head – Business Performance Improvement, NRI said, “With adoption of smart cities, connected features will be in higher demand, especially in developing intelligent traffic management systems. With so many vehicles on road, sensors can help traffic management, environment concerns, road infra development."

Brijesh Gubbi Suresh – AVP, New Business Strategy, Hyundai Motor pointed out that when the Company launched the Venue in 2019, the focus was to introduce India-specific features. Even, the recently launched Alcazar car have over 60+ connected features. “The car is said to be the third living space. The three main pillars for us – convenience, safety and security. We have utilized the Blue Link technology to recover stolen vehicles. The technology is helping us and our customers to benefit from the same” said Suresh adding that Company's tech center in Hyderabad is playing an important role in bringing out latest connected vehicle products and about 140,000 connected cars have been sold in India.

Another important challenge for the OEMs revolves around features which can act as a differentiator. Offering an insight into the consumer behaviour Ram Bhavaraju, Head, Software Development, Ather Energy reveals that connected vehicle comes in the top 3 of the list when it comes to customer’s wish-list while purchasing an EV. About 75-80 percent of customers use the connected features in the first two months of purchase. However, it gradually goes down when the subscription renewal comes. The company's recent launch 450X has about 44 sensors generating data running into terabytes.

Highlighting the challenges involved, Nomura’s Ashim Sharma added that , "While the opportunity of connected vehicles looks exciting, there are challenges –

 1) More steps in PD cycle

2) Need for constant connectivity

3) Interconnected ecosystem

4) Bandwidth & frequency

5) Product & service customisation

6) Data security & privacy

But all said and done, it is expected that connected vehicles will continue to be a trend as big as shared mobility and EVs in India.

Infrastructure for next-generation connectivity
The next panel at the ‘Connected Mobility Conclave’ focussed on the next generation connectivity aspect. The speakers included,

  • Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head – Audi India
  • Dr Shankar Venugopal, VP – Mahindra & Mahindra
  • Aashish Bhatia, President, Visteon India
  • Vijay Ratnaparkhe, Global CIO, Robert Bosch

Outlining the changing trend, Balbir Singh Dhillon, Head, Audi India said, "Earlier, people bought cars to move from point A to B. Now, it's about buying an experience. All the cars we sell are connected. Connectivity is dependent on infrastructure, regulations & tech."

Dhillon added that, "the 5G tech will bring speed. It is a step in the right direction. Reaction time and data from cars running on the road has to go and come at speed. Digitalisation is a journey, a continuous investment towards improving experiences for customers."

Bringing the focus of the panel on the current realities, Aashish Bhatia, President, Visteon India said, "The technology is available and there are many tech centres set up in India. We are in a position to deliver. What is in our control is developing the solution but the challenge is to see how much SoC is available, affordability & cyber security."

Affordability is a crucial factor, Vijay Ratnaparkhe, Global CIO, Robert Bosch believes, “Today, we have all the technology that is needed. It is about implementation, meeting regulations & make tech affordable.

Dr Shankar Venugopal, VP – Mahindra & Mahindra added that cost factors plays an important role in adoption of connected vehicles and that is what led the Company to develop its driver-less tractors in a short time and that too at an affordable price point.

Further highlighting the importance of loclisation, Ratnaparkhe of Robert Bosch added that, "If you had a fully autonomous car on Indian roads, it will be so safe that it won’t move as there will be people around it. That’s why we need more Indian solutions."

The speakers agreed that auto industry needs to increase localisation but it has to be done in a step by step systematic process. As Ashish Bhatia of Visteon India said, "When there is more content going in vehicles, they will require more power which means we need to make sure it is affordable. As we are looking at coming out with hardware and software solutions, we have to look at what our end-goal is."


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