With the turbulent time automotive sector has been facing, it takes a leader with an iron fist and a people-first attitude to run, succeed and make a difference in the industry. Rajeev Chaba, President & Managing Director, MG Motor India, is undoubtedly one such leader in the automotive sector, making a difference with technology, innovation, and a people & customer-first attitude. He started his career in the automotive industry in 1990 with Eicher Motor after completing his Masters’ degree from IIM Bangalore. He held senior positions with top global brands, including General Motors (GM) India, North Africa & Egypt, China and Man Capital LLC / Van Guard Logistics.BUILDING BRANDS & CREATING BENCHMARKS
When Chaba joined MG Motor India in 2017 with his three decades of experience, he had his eye set on making the company stand apart in the market. He understood what the company lacked at the moment was a vehicle dominated not just by hardware features but technology, too. With a game plan in mind and technology as the ally, under his leadership, the company introduced India’s first internet-centric car – MG Hector. Its industry-first features, including iSMART and OTA updates, established the car as a benchmark for innovation and meeting customers’ needs.
Although the company has been at the forefront of delivering the best to customers, it hit a roadblock due to the pandemic-induced semiconductor shortage. Chaba mentioned, “We witnessed strong demand from Indian buyers in 2021. However, due to the semiconductor shortage across the industry, only two-thirds of the total production was achieved.” How was he planning to drive the company out of this problem? He revealed, “Though the shortage is expected to continue this year, we are maximising our efforts to cater to the growing demand and achieve around 70 per cent growth, resulting in 70,000-75,000 units in 2022. We continuously access and align our production, subject to the volatility of worldwide supply constraints.”
Through volatility, MG Motor India has not let go of its bullish nature to move forward in the Indian market. It has been investing and growing despite the concurrent effects of the pandemic. It has expanded its capacity and invested nearly Rs 5,000 crore — Rs 2,000 crore in the 2021-2022 budget, in addition to the investment of Rs 3,000 crore made earlier — to expand its plant's abilities. "The company primarily plans to enhance the Halol plant's capacity, from 75,000 to 1.2 lac units, by 2023 to meet the growing demand,” mentioned Chaba.
THE “ELECTRIC” GAME-PLAN
A part of the allocated Rs 2,000 crore budget will also be used to launch a new EV next year and boost charging infrastructure. Chaba Chaba revealed that beside investing in upgrading the existing line of EV, the funds would be channeled towards localising EV. He emphasised, “Our vision is to make the manufacturing facility at Halol an important EV hub in the country.”
With India’s EV four-wheeler business starting to pick up, the company is confident about making a mark in the industry despite the underlying market challenges. Chaba said the company is poised for 25 per cent of its business to derive from ZS EV (priced between Rs 10-15 lakhs) in the first quarter of 2023. Chaba cited, “MG Motor India has been at the forefront of bringing innovative technology and solutions to the country. We launched the ZS EV — India's first pure electric internet SUV in 2020 when the EV industry and the consumer mindset were at a nascent stage.” Chaba explained the key to capturing the market and boosting customer confidence was building the requisite infrastructure before launching the vehicle. He mentioned, “Introducing the 5-way charging ecosystem, which included a plug-and-charge cable onboard, AC fast-charger (installed at home/office), DC superfast chargers at MG dealerships, public charging network and charge-on-the-go with roadside assistance (RSA), before the launch of the ZS EV helped us boost customer’s confidence greatly.”
Chaba said they plan to take the same route further ahead to grow their EV business. The company has worked with companies like Fortum, Delta, eChargeBays, Exicom, Electreefi, and Tata Power to introduce DC and AC fast chargers across the country previously. Now, under the ' MG Charge ' venture, the company plans to install 1,000 AC fast chargers in India. “MG will install 1,000 EV chargers in residential localities across India in 1,000 days. As a result, MG will now have a 6-way charging solution for its customers and provide increased assurance and confidence toward EV adoption,” he revealed. Although the market is riddled with competition from EV four-wheeler makers, including players such as Honda and Tata Motors, Chaba is not too worried about MG's EV business in India. He said the brand’s key focus is on buyers looking for a 'Smart Urban Mobility Solution'.
MG’S SUSTAINABLE PLANS
MG Motor has been rigorously working on delivering sustainable end-to-end services and has been vocal about creating a sustainable automotive industry. Amongst achievements in this direction, the company recently secured a 675.3/800 score in the India Green Manufacturing challenge and has been recommended for 'Silver' - the secondhighest category award. It has also acquired another milestone in its fight against greenhouse gasses by getting certified with 'ISO 14064-1 for Quantification & Reporting of Green House Gas (GHG) Emissions & Removals'. Besides, the company has acquired ISO certification in Environment Management System (ISO 14001 – 2015) and Occupational, Health & Safety Management System (ISO 45001 – 2018).
Chaba mentioned, “In 2021, we partnered with Clean Max Enviro Energy Solutions Pvt Ltd and became India's first passenger car company to adopt wind-solar hybrid energy to supply 4.85 MW power to MG's manufacturing facility in Halol. With this partnership, MG will abate approximately 2 lakh MT of CO2 over 15 years, equal to planting more than 13 lakh trees.”
Moreover, the company’s #ChangeWhatYouCan campaign leverages innovation to bring positive change to the environment and society positively. The manufacturer recently became the world's first automotive brand to use ULTRAX Degreaser, a liquid alkaline degreasing cleaner developed by PPG Asian Paints. The degreasing pre-treatment chemical launch aligns with the brand's focus on making sustainable mobility greener, leading to a CO2 reduction of 787 tons/annum.
Besides the ULTRAX degreaser, Chaba stated that MG Motor India conserves energy through low-temperature phosphate (VERSABOND) and high throw low cure cathodic electrocoating paint, leading to a CO2 reduction of 325 tons/annum and approximately 388 tons/annum, respectively. “These new technologies will support the company to enable a cumulative CO2 reduction of 1500 tons/annum,” he said. If not appropriately managed due to their chemical composition, batteries can be highly toxic to the ecosystem, turning EVs into a threat to environmental sustainability. To ensure the company is not a part of the problem, Chaba stated, “Since battery waste is a challenge for sustainable mobility, we believe battery recycling is the optimum way of bridging this void, making electric mobility greener. We have partnered with many global and Indian companies for sustainable recycling, second life use and battery lifecycle management.”
MG has so far partnered with Umicore and Tes AMM to ensure safe disposal, whereas, for second life management, the company has partnered with companies like Exicom and Tata Power. Further, it has teamed up with Attero to recycle MG's EV battery successfully. “We look forward to doing more work in this space to create sustainable, end-to-end solutions that will help us make an impact,” he added.
SKILLING THE FUTURE OF AUTOMOTIVE
MG's core focus since its inception in India has been to bring the latest technologies and foster a spirit of innovation among young visionaries to pursue their dreams and make them future-ready. “The company has been engaging in multiple initiatives and partnerships to enable young students to develop relevant skills in futuristic technologies and become self-reliant, thereby empowering them for a brighter future and further strengthening the goal of fulfilling a broader vision of Skill India,” explained Chaba.
To further MG's vision of CASE mobility, learning & skill development, and overall commitment to strengthening the mobility ecosystem, the company recently also announced its plan to extend cars to select engineering colleges in Gujarat. “The partnership will enhance technological skillsets in students under the MG Nurture initiative, thereby bridging the existing gap between the industry and academia in the auto-tech world. This will further empower students to carry out in-depth, handson research and garner insights into the intricacies of technologically advanced vehicles,” he stated.
As part of the program, students will study a wide range of parts, technology, and systems, including fuel systems, engines, ignition systems, vehicle chassis & body engineering, and much more. “With this, tomorrow's innovators will be empowered with first-hand knowledge of major automotive systems. This will enhance their future employability and make them industry ready for MG or any other automotive brand,” Chaba added.
To further take positive strides toward creating a robust innovation ecosystem in the country, MG Motors has also extended its collaboration with IIT Delhi by donating its top-of-the-line ZS EV to fuel the research and development of future EVs in India. Additionally, it has partnered with the Automotive Component Manufacturers Association of India (ACMA) and launched 'Project Dakshata' in collaboration with Automotive Skill Development Council (ASDC) and Autobot India to educate and foster skill development in the EV & AI industry. He mentioned, “Such initiatives act as an ideal platform to brainstorm new technologies and motivate youngsters to become visionary leaders to carry the torch of innovation.”
CREATING THE BEST CUSTOMER-FIRST EXPERIENCES
The year 2022 will be critical to MG’s business as it is working towards ramping up the production output to cater to the growing demand for the recently launched all-new ZS EV and Astor Chaba revealed. Despite the market volatility, what comes first for MG is its customers. He added, “The brand has always believed in bringing innovative technology as per the evolving needs. Since 2019, we have launched four products and updated three to suit the new-age customer's demand.” MG has always been committed to going the extra mile for its customers. Now, Chaba is confident that MG will be able to make the experience of vehicle ownership even better for its customers. “From its inception, MG has always been committed to going the extra mile and delivering a convenient ownership experience to its customers. We are also working towards creating sustainable mobility solutions. Hence, I am certain we will continue to excite the market with a range of delightful products in the coming years,” he signed off.