India's focus on reskilling and localisation key to competitive edge in new mobility sector, says Nitin Sheth

Talent is critical, and investments in curriculum and R&D are low in India, Sheth said.

By Shahkar Abidi calendar 08 Dec 2023 Views icon1485 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
India's focus on reskilling and localisation key to competitive edge in new mobility sector, says Nitin Sheth

In the realm of policies in the new mobility space, including that of e-mobility, a critical factor that demands attention is the reskilling of the workforce. Further, to maintain a competitive edge and avoid mere replication of others' efforts, India must prioritise localisation and serve as an exemplar, believes Nitin Sheth, CEO, New Mobility, Reliance Industries.  

He contends that because India has limited resources, it is important to invest strategically in research and development (R&D), and academia, including the IITs, should make an effort to contribute more to these emerging technologies. This will lead to faster adoption of EVs and other clean energy solutions, similar to how the telecom industry has evolved with a focus on data.

"Talent is critical, and investments in curriculum and R&D are low in India," Sheth remarked during a panel discussion titled 'Policy Enablers and Regulatory Impact,' which was part of the India EV Conclave, an industry event organised by the Tamil Nadu government in association with Autocar Professional in Chennai on November 21. "As a country, we need to invest in advanced processes to enhance skills and ensure we have more R&D engineers across categories," he added, emphasising that by investing in R&D and working on innovative technologies in the new mobility space, we can stay ahead of the curve. This way, the country can also save a significant amount of money spent on fuel imports and make a positive impact on the environment. 

Sheth's comments should be seen in the context of the repeated concerns raised by the government, highlighting that the country's import bills for fossil fuels are projected to exceed Rs 25 lakh crore within the next five years, a significant increase from the current Rs 16 lakh crore. Also, an International Energy Agency (IEA) report predicts that India's fossil fuel imports and associated bills are expected to double over the next two decades, due to the scale of development in the country. The report further states that if current energy policies remain unchanged, India's energy demand will grow by over 3% annually. To be sure, the data from the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas reveals that the net import bill for oil and gas reached $11.2 billion in December 2022, compared to US$10.7 billion in December 2021. Crude oil imports accounted for $11.9 billion, while LNG imports amounted to $1.6 billion in December 2022.

Consistency for level playing field 

Sheth further highlighted that the central government should aim for consistency across states to ensure a level playing field. Incentives and support should be available in most states to encourage the adoption of EVs. "When it comes to policy, it has to be good for all stakeholders. Policy should take a long-term view and be balanced for all to be successful," the top executive continued before adding that for OEMs and suppliers, long-term policies are important because they require time to invest in localising production. This means they need confidence in the government's subsidies and incentives. Additionally, sudden policy changes can harm demand, he added.

"From the government side, it should give a road map to everyone. Returns may not come up for 5-7 years, but that's the way to go," Sheth further added before continuing that a clear roadmap and long-term vision are necessary to attract investments, even if the returns may take several years to materialise.

Talking further, Sheth noted that while the opportunities remain, the challenges too have to be overcome. For instance, the availability of raw materials for batteries is a concern. Producing green hydrogen is another challenge that requires cooperation between conglomerates, governments, and the private sector. Infrastructure, such as charging stations and hydrogen dispensing stations, needs to be developed as well.

Additionally, the finance companies are also worried about these factors. "To address these concerns, we need to create a connected ecosystem that includes the vehicle, battery, charging stations, and resale value," he explained.


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