AVIK CHATTOPADHYAY is Co-founder & Partner – Expereal
At the recently held SIAM Annual Conclave I sat through a presentation by a gentleman of the World Economic Forum about the 4th industrial revolution, pressing the case for autonomous vehicles across the world. That tickled my grey cells about which is the cart and which the horse. Does a mayor in New York actually look for autonomous vehicles or for decongestion on the roads? Does Delhi need the same solutions as in New York? Does Trichy suffer from the same problems as in Delhi?
What really is the future of mobility in India? And are the OEMs prepared for the same – either determining the future or gearing up to it?
The Indian automobile industry has a working template in the AMP 2026. It has three key goals – become the third largest market in the world, contribute to 12 % of India's GDP and add 65 mn more jobs to the national working population. While on its way to becoming the third largest market, does the industry have a vision of the mobility landscape 10 years from now? While 65 mn more jobs are added to the existing 20 mn, what exactly will they be engaged in and what types of skills will they need to fuel the mobility landscape in 2026?
WHAT'S THE FUTURE LIKE?
To me, the future of mobility in India will be one that is connected, shared and converged. A bit on each of these attributes. The future of mobility will have connected solutions that offer drivers of various vehicles ability to communicate with each other, within both closed groups and open protocol.
For example, all CVs within a fleet will communicate with each other in terms of location data, vehicle diagnostics, logistic updates, driver health and destination dynamics. Basically, the CVs within the fleet are not only finishing their own tasks but also collaborating with the others for overall efficiencies. This is a closed group wherein each enterprise might design their own proprietary solutions.
In the open protocol, various unrelated vehicles on their individual tasks and destinations within a geo-physical zone will work as an autonomous platoon, getting updates on their presence, proximity warnings and traffic dynamics. This is not just the basic GPS navigation systems we have right now, where as individuals we are dependent on external mapping to gauge where we are vis-à-vis each other. This will be a connected world, where I will know about the others on my route as they connect with me directly. I can take decisions accordingly, on routes, timings, speeds and even pooling.
The future of mobility will be shared. While more and more Indians will own their own means of transport, parallel advancements will be made in public transport in reach and variety. While people in the cities will take to using public transport too, those in the semi-urban and rural areas acquire personal modes of transport. Within their own areas of operation, they will optimise the cost-value equation by a combination of personal and public transport. This will give vehicle makers the opportunity to offer shared mobility solutions. For example, a two-wheeler maker might set up rental zones in a city from where individuals pick up vehicles, complete their tasks, pay up and board a bus or metro train. Tomorrow's India will consume mobility solutions and not necessarily own them.
The future of mobility in India will be a fully converged one, wherein all key stakeholders in the grid will be collaborating. In fact, they will be forced to collaborate as the very mobility ecosystem cannot allow to remain in isolation. Town planners, traffic police, infrastructure companies, energy companies, individual vehicle owners, public transport operators, service stations, meteorological centres and satellites will be working together to ensure smooth movement.
To add to the above three factors, fewer consumers will be purchasing vehicles actually walking to a showroom. The vehicle makers will actually have to go up to the prospect to conduct a test drive, close the sale, complete the documentation and deliver the product. The illogical and unnecessary investment in brick and mortar showrooms will greatly reduce. They are edifices of the past. The only physical structure will be the servicing facility.
In this scenario, are the OEMs ready? Will they insist on still calling themselves Original Equipment Manufacturers or Mobility Solution Providers? Will they be able to change their own mindset from being "product sellers" to "solution providers"? Will they be able to decipher what the consumer will consume? And what will the vehicles consume?
This is going to be the biggest challenge for the present day OEM – to transform from a manufacturer of physical products to a provider of integrated/ converged solutions. The core business purpose needs to be redefined. The brand today stands for a specific physical form. The brand tomorrow has to stand for a solution that has physical, digital, augmented and emotional forms.
Just imagine a situation in Delhi wherein the "Maruti Suzuki" brand not just sells vehicles badged "Suzuki" and the usual finance, insurance, warranty, servicing and accessories, but is actually an aggregator of mobility solutions in collaboration with Delhi Metro Rail, Indian Railways, Delhi Transport Corporation, Hero Cycles, TVS, ISRO, Garmin, NHRC, Delhi Traffic Police and Apollo Hospitals. What differentiates the Maruti Suzuki solution from the one by, say a Tata Mobility, is that it continues to offer the lowest cost of operation, as it does today!
Competition will emerge not from other traditional OEMs (who will either wither away or be consumed by the MSPs), but from public transport entities and rental solutions that operate today. So, in Delhi, the competition to Maruti Suzuki will come from a completely transformed Delhi Transport Corporation (offering all forms of mobility) and an evolved Uber (that will expand its scope in variety and rental).
Marketing solutions for a mobility company will be very different from what they are today. It will shift its primary focus from converting a prospect into a vehicle buyer to getting more potential users to consume its integrated services. The design and creation of marketing solutions will be completely configured from the perspective of the consumer tomorrow rather than the enterprise today.
Automakers today, who can actually see the future of the mobility landscape in India and prepare themselves accordingly as MSPs, will be the ones who will survive the next 20 years. The others will either be relegated to vendors to the MSPs or be integrated into the larger enterprises or simply cease to operate in this country. It will not be surprising to see some very large names today simply walk towards their death in the near future.
Some of the biggest, most aspirational and sustainable enterprises do not own any physical attributes but offer real-world solutions. Like an Uber. Or Facebook. Or Google. The world of mobility will see a similar transformation in India, not so much in the fields of autonomous driving and electric energy but in the form of connected, shared and converged solutions, for whoever wants to move from point A to point B, in the most cost effective, energy efficient and environmentally responsible manner.
This transformation will be unique to India, given our size, socio-economic diversity, population and digital acumen. It will be a benchmark for other nations with similar complexities such as Brazil, South Africa and also China. And a true example of not just 'Make in India' but "Create in India"!