Let’s not be cynical about the new national initiative MOTION Center of Excellence of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) through the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) which will support a new wave of entrepreneurs interested in participating in Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared automotive vehicles in India
There are always two opinions on the alacrity and innovation of Government departments in the city, state and country and most private citizens and people working in organizations tend to veer to the side of negativity. However, there is a lot to be said for the quick thinking and robust action of at least two wings of Government I have interacted with in recent times. In fairness, both deserve a mention here for all readers to think about and debate.
The first is the Pune Municipal Corporation, about which I have often written in the context of our wonderful non-profit organization Pune City Connect, which has gone from strength to strength in the Public Private Partnership with PMC, building over twenty-five skills and digital literacy locations, enabling ten model schools and undertaking interventions that have been quite path breaking in education and skills for the youth and children for fourteen municipal wards in the city. The exemplary leadership of two successive commissioners, additional commissioners and corporation managers and staff have seen this blossom over the years and we have been privileged to be the recipient of many national honors. The recent selection by the Aspen Institute’s Global Opportunity Youth Initiative as one of the three global projects to support has been another feather in our cap.
The second is a recent national initiative which I am privileged to mentor and chair the MOTION Center of Excellence of the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) through the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) which will support a new wave of entrepreneurs interested in participating in the exciting new opportunities for Autonomous, Connected, Electric and Shared automotive vehicles in India. The physical center will come up early next year in Bhosari in Pune and will open up opportunities for collaborations between OEMs and entrepreneurs to design and build “Made in India” solutions in this frontier area of IT-Manufacturing interfaces.
The opportunity and indeed the imperative of this segment was recognized some time ago with the Government announcing a grand plan to make India 100 % EV by 2030. A noble thought but quite monumental given some stark realities. There are at present just forty thousand AVES vehicles in the country compared to over three hundred and eighty million in the US alone. In the US, charging stations are springing up all over and auto majors like General Motors, Toyota, BMW and of course TESLA are setting up centers in Silicon Valley, the heart of innovation, to build solutions for both embedded and tethered connectivity in vehicles.
The opportunity is obvious–connected cars will transform safety, diagnostics, security, navigation, infotainment and even payments using both embedded electronics and intelligent assistants like Amazon Alexa and the smartphone that each individual possesses in these times. Apart from the obvious opportunity, this presents for rideshare companies like UBER to finally find a path to profitability by eliminating the driver, it is expected that driverless trucks will be navigating the freeways of America in the not so distant future. One more challenge, of course for the Indian mission, because eliminating a crore of potential driving jobs is not the best way forward for an already jobs deprived country.
The opportunity is obvious connected cars will transform safety, diagnostics, security, navigation, infotainment and even payments
One of the biggest challenges, of course, is the real risk that if we plunge into AVES through mandate rather than evolution, the import content of the Indian automotive industry could jump from its current level of fifteen per cent to seventy plus, given the enormous cost of batteries with their imported lithium and cobalt content. This is an extraordinary opportunity for an Indian innovation initiative and a CoE led breakthrough in indigenous battery development could not only serve the needs of the Indian AVES sector but also provide enormous export opportunities with the entire world of transportation going green and clean!
Kudos to the Ministry and STPI for this path-breaking initiative and a specific call-out to Dr Onkar Rai Director General STPI , Dr Ajai Garg Special Director and Sanjay Gupta Pune STPI Head for getting industry, academia and of course the entrepreneur community engaged in this initiative. Some of us have been concerned at the froth associated with StartUp India with the occasional unicorn hiding the reality behind the sputtering growth of many thousands of wannabe entrepreneurs in the e-commerce space. I have always believed that a new wave of startups set up to solve real problems will show us the real joy of Indian entrepreneurship and the STPI CoEs, already set up in Bhubaneshwar and Chennai in different areas and many more coming up after Pune can surely lead the way.
What does all this mean for the engaged readers of this column? Let us shed all the cynicism that normally lurks in our mind about the ability of private sector and Government to work together and put our best foot and minds forward to make these collaborations work. The country is going through difficult times and to keep the tryst with destiny that we deserve, it is important that we all work in a spirit of collaboration to build the India of our dreams!