An electric war just begun. If we don’t win it – we will perish…

I have been reading about fears of World War III but let me tell you that the war has already begun and either India or China are going to be victorious at it. This is what I call an electric war. This is a war not between the armies but between two economies and citizens of two countries who want to achieve industrial production, sales, technical, research superiority over each other. This is the time that the unions and workmen alongwith the companies must rise to the occasion stop fighting amongst each other for a dime and focus on our industrial war with China. This may sound poetic or patriotic but let me tell you that the livelihood of each and every citizen depends on our actions for which we shall be responsible at the end.

The Indian government has set an ambitious target I will call it Target 2030 for electric cars. This is one of the targets for an emission free country to reduce its dependency other countries.

For the first time the government is leading from the front and has a feel of what is happening around the world. I am happy that the government has given up its nomadic thinking and is moving forward to an emission free world. The latest policy shifts comes in the automotive sector.

The energy department said its aim is that by 2030, all vehicles sold in India should be electric vehicles. A look at the current numbers provides a good gauge of how ambitious a target this is. Electric vehicle sales stood at about 20,000 units in the year ended 31 March 2016, according to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles.

Though many may doubt the governments words about the time frame yet giving a timeframe would definitely indicate the intention of the government. The time for this could not be more appropriate. The electric vehicle market has reached an inflection point. Sales of electric cars grew at an exponential pace of 94% between 2011-15 the world over, led predominantly by the US, Europe and China. In fact, a top University in the United States has predicted that all new vehicles sales in late 2020’s will be electric, and fossil fuel-based vehicles would have vanished by the late 2030’s. The growth in the electric vehicle market will change the landscape of the Indian automobile industry significantly. It will also have a big impact on the overall Indian economy.

India has a thriving automotive industry serving the local and global markets, particularly in small cars. Over 22 million people, making up 5% of India’s workforce, are employed in the sector, which is mostly centred around internal combustion engines.

As the country moves towards an electric vehicle-led future, there will be a requirement for new, efficient vehicle components such as high-density batteries. The current crop of manufacturers and suppliers will need to pivot quickly to capitalize on this wave. They will need to collaborate closely, invest smartly, establish global tie-ups to get a leg up on technology and quickly build up scale. I will not go into the technical aspects however only a handful of companies in India seem to be getting ready for this wave

However, companies need to act on this urgently, not least because competition in the sector is heating up and countries like China have been making rapid progress. Chinese firms have steadily increased their electric vehicle output and technical capabilities in the sector, leaving their global peers behind in building capacity as well as sales. China is poised to become a global hub in the electric vehicle space, ahead of traditional auto hubs such as Germany..

India’s move to electric vehicles will open diversified opportunities for downstream industries such as lithium-ion battery packs, electric traction motors and charging infrastructure..

The scale of the opportunity can be gauged best by the investments being made on this front. Tesla, the US-based electric car maker, and Japan’s Panasonic are investing $5 billion in a “gigafactory”. Their aim is to produce 35 GWh of battery power by 2018—more than the combined global production of batteries in 2014. China is expected to produce 121 GWh of batteries by 2020.

Nitin Gadkari quite bluntly made the government’s intentions clear to India’s automobile lobby group, SIAM, on Septmeber 7. “We should move towards alternative fuel…I am going to do this, whether you like it or not, And I am not going to ask you. I will bulldoze it.”
Now comes the million dollar question if the companies are not prepared they will be bulldozed out of the market. The chances are that 50 percent of the industry who are supplying various products to the Car Manufacturing industry will be bulldozed out of the market whether you like it or not. Their place will be taken by technically superior, progressive, futuristic companies with educated, intelligent and superior manpower unlike what is present today.
Unions and the workmen will have to change and fight for their future. I will not name the companies and the unions but many of the unions are ready for this change and are aware about this change. However about 80 percent of the unions are still day dreaming and living in wonderland. Please mark my words in an electric world where the jobs are going to be very technical only an extremely skilled person or an extremely educated person or a person willing to change with time will survive. Many unions are not even ready to give productivity. I have always maintained that it is a failure of the union if the management is forced to link productivity to wages.
Finally we are at an industrial war with China anybody who is working against our companies is as good as working for the benefit of China. This is a war which we cannot loose at any cost no matter what consequences it has.
I have my strong reservations about what I see with my open eyes about what is going on in the industry. It really saddens me to see the corruption at a government level where disputes can be resolved. The government authorities are making no effort to settle disputes but only adding fuel to fire. I am appalled to see that there is absolutely no vision about what is going on in the international markets to the labour department. When we have a Prime Minister and a Chief Minister who are working day and night for the benefit of the country and the state it is disheartening to see the attitude of the Labour Department who needs to be sensitized with the realities of the market. How often do we see the cases of general demands being referred to the court only after 1 or 2 meetings. I am shocked to see that not even an attempt is made to settle the dispute by bringing both parties that is the employers and the unions at the tables. Though not all officers are such but what example are we setting to expats and multinationals about red tape in our government machinery.
To conclude there is a lot to write however I will make an humble appeal that the time has come that we sensitize the unions and the employees to the harsh realties of the markets. We must not threaten them or make them insecure but we must educate them, train them are prepare them for the future.

Aditya Joshi
Advocate

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