Sudarshan Venu believes that the future of urban mobility is “changing very fast” and this is particularly evident in Europe which is leading the change with electric bicycles.
According to the Joint Managing Director of TVS Motor Company, the clear triggers are sustainability and decarbonisation as well as the growing imperatives of healthy living.
“My father has the vision of being best in quality and this is something we are taking global. With Sir Ralf we have really made a clear step in embracing this new urban future of mobility,” adds Venu.
The reference here is to Venu Srinivasan, now Chairman who will make way for Ralf Speth, the former CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, to take over next month.
It is this vision of urban mobility that has prompted TVS Motor to acquire two companies based in Switzerland, EGO Movement and Swiss E-Mobility Group (SEMG) in rapid succession.
“If you look at Switzerland, it stands for high quality precision engineering. This really goes well with the values and ethos of TVS Motor which has been built with my father’s leadership and vision over the last many years. Switzerland was only a natural choice for us and with these two acquisitions, we are now the largest players in the Swiss e-bicycle market,” explains the 33-year-old Venu.
He drives home the point that he is “really grateful to Sir Ralf” as well as the entire team led by Sharad Mohan Mishra to make this happen. “Sir Ralf gave his guidance to go in this direction and I appreciate the effort made into making it a reality,” he adds.
Venu then makes a specific reference to Zurich with its unique concentration of trains and e-bicycles making it “actually a great” template of sorts for the future of mobility. Similar changes are happening gradually across Europe in big cities like Paris and Berlin whose residents are embracing the idea of riding around on e-bicycles with an idea of keeping the air clean.
It is this reality that convinces Venu that urban mobility is “one of the most exciting” and fastest growing sectors to be in. It is estimated to see good growth in the coming years and it is here that companies like TVS Motor believe Europe will be at the forefront of this change.
“I think SEMG and EGO together give us the base to spread our presence in Europe and particularly the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) which is growing quickly,” he says. At the same time, “the brands we have” in the form of Cilo, Simpel, Allegro and Zenith can go global to harness this potential further.
From TVS Motor’s point of view, there is clearly a push on sustainability and e-bikes will be at the forefront of this movement. Europe is leading the way right now but it is only a matter of time before this spreads worldwide especially across India and ASEAN.
“I think Europe is at the forefront when it comes to personal mobility by e-bikes, but you are also seeing electrification trends worldwide across other segments too. We at TVS Motor are committed to having a full range of electric products from two-to three-wheelers for India and emerging markets as well,” says Venu.
This focus will also extend to Norton Motorcycles which the company had acquired in early 2020. As a heritage British brand, it has “tremendous values” which will come to the fore in a very modern way even while retaining its core.
“I think there will be something interesting and exciting on the electric front at some point,” hints Venu while pointing out that TVS Motor is also working with BMW Motorrad on electric two-wheelers which will be designed and developed for global markets.
He is clearly delighted with the team that is in place to manage this challenging transition. On the personal mobility business of e-bikes, Sharad Mohan Mishra is President, Group Strategy who is “very passionate about the future of mobility” and is leading this business.
Then, there is Robert Henschel who is CEO of Norton and whose electrics and electronics background “only shows the commitment we have to the future and dominance” of electronics and software. Likewise, Vittorio Urciuoli is another important component of this leadership model. As CTO of Norton, he will bring his vast experience from Aprilia and Ferrari to the table.
In the Swiss business, “we have a strong management team” led by Reto Waeffler of SEMG who comes from the sports/sports goods industry and also the e-bicycles space. This is critical because there is an element/flavour of lifestyle as well in this entire personal mobility space. In EGO, Daniel Meyer and Marie So are “the very passionate co-founders who continue to run the company”.
Add to this pool the competencies of the engineering team at TVS Motor back home in India and it makes up for a formidable mix of talent that is intended to keep the company on the fast track to achieving its goals in the new mobility era.
“We are trying to do our best and are committed to embracing the future of mobility. Clearly, we are passionate about it and, hence, investing in a wide product range and the technology to be at the forefront,” elaborates Venu.
In his view, the opportunities for electric vehicles are global and that is why TVS Motor is developing a whole range of products starting with iQube and three-wheelers. “You will see more and more exciting products from us which will be sold in India and the world,” he says.
Specifically, when it comes to the recent acquisitions in the e-bike space, this is a trend that is more dominant in Europe at least for now. “For India and elsewhere, the objective is to have a wide range of EV options and you will really see this commitment and push from our side across all our existing markets. E-bikes will be in Europe where there will be a greater push here,” says Venu.
While making clear that the focus on the internal combustion engine (ICE) will continue — which will see improvements and new products/features and will be an area that “we will keep pace with” — the real push will be in electric. “We are also beefing up talent in a big way,” he says while remaining upbeat about the fact that the achievements made in ICE by the top four — Hero, TVS, Bajaj,and Enfield — in terms of exports and building global brands can be replicated with EVs as well.
“There may be small ups and downs en route but the future is clear for us and we are committed to playing a leading role in this space. You will also see new designs coming in since we have strengthened our design team as well. Products need to be attractive and aspirational to customers by the end of the day,” says Venu.