Call it patriotism or nationalism but these sentiments were on full display by two prominent brands on August 15 with electric being the common thread binding both.
While Mahindra & Mahindra showcased its range at a glittering event in the UK, closer back home Ola Electric had a sneak preview of its upcoming car. The two entities are, of course, as different as chalk and cheese albeit with a common objective of market dominance.
Mahindra is a legacy automotive brand which has grown over the years while overcoming a whole lot of challenges to hold its own in a fiercely competitive market. Ola Electric, on the other hand, represents the face of the new India with an entrepreneur who has stuck his neck out to say that his company is here to make a difference.
His admirers love him for his confidence and brashness while his critics sneer at this arrogance. Yet, there is no question that Bhavish Aggarwal is someone you just cannot ignore simply because of his never-say-die attitude.
The new Mahindra is keen on rebooting itself as a modern SUV maker which is now more than ready to take on the electric challenge. In the process, it has already shrugged off excess baggage acquired in the past like SsangYong Motor, for instance, and is working towards emerging as a lean and mean entity which is on top of its game.
Mahindra was actually among the early movers in electric with the acquisition of Reva over a decade ago but lost the momentum to Tata Motors which has been going flat out in this space and clearly targeting the top slot. The tug-of-war between the two will be evident in the coming years as the race intensifies and now with Ola also signalling its intent, India’s time has well and truly arrived in the EV segment.
Competition is, of course, welcome and the mood becomes even better when there is some grace and dignity going alongside. The best reference point was at the Tata Motors AGM way back in 2012 when Ratan Tata, who was then Chairman, had reflected on his company losing out to Mahindra in the numbers game.
"I have a great respect for what Mahindra & Mahindra has been able to do. I also have a certain degree of sadness and shame that we have let that happen. I think we have a great deal of introspection to do as to why M&M should be ahead of us, and us catching up on the horsepower we have lacked, but we should have been there and not them,” he had said.
Continuing on this theme, he was hopeful that “the spirit of this company will ensure that we undertake every step to get back to the prominent position and not let a competitor do better than us, by being first in everything we do”.
Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Group, in his response, tweeted: “Mr Tata’s comment is extraordinarily humble and generous” while going on to say that his company took it as “a pat on the back from a big brother” and “it inspires us to work harder”.
Fast forward to the present and Tata Motors has surged ahead and is now a serious contender in the passenger car space where Hyundai as the long-term rival to Maruti is feeling the heat. Mahindra, which has now fallen behind, is resetting its priorities too and the UK event provided an opportunity to make a strong statement of its ambitions in the electric mobility space.
By the end of the day, it is good to see homegrown brands establish a place for themselves in the EV arena where they are up against strong entities from Japan, Korea and China. How Tata, Mahindra and Ola work towards achieving their individual objectives will be interesting to see in the course of this decade. What will be even more welcome is for the participants to take a leaf out of Ratan Tata’s book and maintain grace and dignity even while fighting it out hard during this challenging transition.
The world continues to be in a state of volatility with no indication if China will actually execute its threat of invading Taiwan. While an anxious planet is hoping for the best, Russia continues to put pressure on Ukraine as the war inches towards the 200-day mark with no end in sight. Europe will have its work cut out coping with a hostile winter as Russia continues its vice-like grip over gas supplies.
This issue has some interesting stories which will hopefully keep you sufficiently engrossed. This is my last column and I have truly enjoyed every bit of my stint with enthusiastic colleagues who have played an invaluable role right through. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank readers for being such a solid pillar of support. Take care and stay safe!
THis editorial appears in the September 1, 2022 issue of Autocar Professional