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Electric Mobility: Scale up and Commercialization | Chapter 4

Electric Mobility | Chapter Four
Electric Mobility | Chapter Four

Mobility Engineer 2030 | Electric Mobility - Chapter Four

Bharath takes a new avatar as an Intrapreneur

Bharath had a comfortable flight back home. While waiting for his luggage in the airport conveyor belt, he flipped his phone from the flight mode. The first message he noticed was from Dr. Sharma. He had taken an earlier flight to Delhi. It was a typical Dr. Sharma’s message – short and cryptic. It said ‘Deal won. Need business case for our management’. The consortium from the U.S.A was convinced that Dr. Sharma, Bharath and their team was competent to lead the EV opportunity in India. On the taxi drive to his home, Bharath was deeply thinking of how to put together a business case to convince his management that EV is an opportunity worth pursuing.

After settling down, Bharath started framing the structure of the business case. He was clear with the problem statement, the objective, the technology behind EVs, sharing of intellectual property, who would do what and his recommendations. But now it was no longer an EV prototype. He was talking about large scale manufacture and operation at a national level. It was the investment required, the cost of making an EV and the pricing or revenue model that was most important for him and his management. What would be a realistic market size for EVs in India, should they target the export market also? Should it be made in their existing factory or should they go create a new facility?

He recalled all the new concepts he had thought of so far in his EV journey. It was a completely new business from the design of the products to the way they are manufactured and sold. He decided to propose a green field project next to the existing factory. But it will be designed from the scratch, optimized for EV manufacturing and not like any other traditional car factory. Once he made up his mind, he sought the necessary expertise from within his company, from suppliers, academic experts and the U.S. delegation. He was a big fan of the business model canvas [1] and he quickly created a business case. He started rehearsing his presentation to the senior management and the board of directors.

Bharath had interacted with professionals from diverse countries in his experience so far. But after his return to India post his Ph.D., he had not worked closely with cross-country team members for such a strategic project as setting up an EV factory. That is when he realized the nuances of thinking, expressing one’s thoughts, asking for help, even saying no, while working with professionals from multiple geographies. Some are very formal, calling by your last name (e.g Dr Sharma). The Americans that he collaborated with are comfortable calling each other by first name. emails had to be brief and to the point, without much niceties and beating around the bush.

There was one intriguing topic that came up during his meeting to the U.S. delegation that Bharath made a note of. It was about ethics – the thin line between what is correct and what is wrong in this digital era. When Bharath spoke about servitization and offering a subscription rate for each customer based on their driving habits, the question of ethics came up. He said the Internet of Things (IoT) will be used to gather objective data points like sudden braking and acceleration. One representative from the legal team wanted to know how the data collected will be used ethically. The data should not have any bias in it – the subscription rate should be calculated only based on driving habits and not others like the gender, language, caste, religion or region of the individual. Bharath decided to talk to his mentor Ravi about it to make sure he implemented an ethical business model.

When he was thinking of manufacturing electric vehicles, he came across a concept called Microfactory. Not entirely new but it was different from the usual large factories with assembly lines for final vehicle assembly. In the usual practice, the vehicles moved on the assembly line while robots and humans on both sides did work like welding or assembly. British firm Arrival has plans to use microfactories for EV manufacture, close to demand instead of one large factory in a remote location. Unlike long assembly lines, moving platforms would carry the vehicle to robotized cells which did specific tasks. It was a concept Bharath wanted to evaluate. He collated all information and his understandings in a few slides to be presented to the board.

At the end of his presentation to the board, Bharath shared his plans for creating microfactories for EVs and the go-to-market plan for the EVs. The board was convinced and gave the go ahead. Dr. Sharma called Bharath to his cabin once all the presentations were done. There were a few more HR and other leaders in the cabin. Bharath wondered what it was all about. As he walked in, the HR head gave him a bouquet and congratulated him. That is when Dr. Sharma told Bharath that he has been selected as the CTO for the new EV division which would work as an independent vertical. For a moment Bharath could not believe his ears! Yes, he worked really hard, gave his 100 percent, but he becoming the CTO – no that’s not something he saw in the wildest of his dreams. He was overjoyed! The management found in him not only a hard worker but an extremely relevant corporate skill as well which is not very common among many. It is his intrapreneurial mindset – the one that makes him a successful ‘entrepreneur’ within an organization. They now promoted him to a very rewarding and challenging role.

A CTO’s Sweet Spot
A CTO’s Sweet Spot

Dr Sharma went on to describe how his role as a CTO’s is at the intersection of three broad areas. The CTO has to bring together his domain knowledge in automotive industry, financial acumen and digital technologies to be successful in today’s e-era. Bharath had a strong foundation and was confident of picking up well in areas where there were gaps in his skill sets. Bharath was to get a taste, in the very next few weeks, some of the real challenges of the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. He had to make big technology decisions amidst high uncertainty. He suddenly realized that he has got on to a treadmill and he has to keep running even to stay at the same position.

As he was checking his missed calls, Bharath recalled Pavan’s call that had come in the middle of his meeting. As he was busy with his travel arrangements, he could not call him back. He thought of calling and dialed Pavan’s number. As Pavan introduced himself and explained that he would be joining the team, Bharath was happy. He was even more happy to recall Murugan and their association back in their college days. Bharath told Pavan that he would be busy for the next few weeks, following his business travel and they could meet sometime in the following month.

Pavan’s Ikigai

Pavan went home that Friday evening and opened the big white cover with the strange U.S. postal stampings. It was from one of the universities that he had applied to for spending a semester abroad. Some of his seniors had spent their entire fourth year in a U.S. University and subsequently gained admission there for their Master’s degree. The U.S. University had offered Pavan an opportunity to spend two semesters with them along with a good scholarship. The thought of going abroad and studying was very exciting for Pavan. He started thinking about the next step, whether he should do a Master’s abroad or stay in India and take up the job. Both the options looked equally attractive. His parents were willing to support either decisions. He decided to discuss the two options with Professor Murugan and seek his advice.

Murugan agreed that it is a difficult decision only as long as Pavan is not clear about what his ultimate aim is. To get clarity on his life’s aim, he asked Pavan to think about four fundamental questions (a) what do I love, (b) what I am good, at (c) what the world needs, and (d) what I can be paid for. He gave an interesting Japanese name to this exercise – Ikigai [2]. Pavan spent that weekend in an introspective mood to find answers for the four questions. He felt that every student should do this exercise when they are graduating from the university. Answering these four questions brought good clarity and he felt very relieved.

Ikigai – Pavan finds his purpose
Ikigai – Pavan finds his purpose

Pavan’s rendezvous with Bharath

Bharath had given a 30 minutes slot to Pavan for their meeting. When he reached the office and went through the security procedures to enter, he started getting a feeling of corporate life. He reached Bharath’s cabin on time and waited for his call to get over. He could hear the voices of multiple people on the speaker phone.

Pavan’s rendezvous with Bharath
Pavan’s rendezvous with Bharath

Bharath was punctual and called in Pavan at the strike of the hour. He enquired about his education, his family and his old friend Murugan. He conveyed his regards to Murugan and made a note to catch up with him sometime. He was interested to hear about Pavan’s eBaja prototype. Bharath explained the new EV project he was setting up and enquired about Pavan’s areas of interest. He mentioned that EV Battery power management was a challenge and he asked Pavan if he had any thoughts about it.

Pavan wanted to be transparent with Bharath. He brought up the question nagging in his mind – admission in the U.S. university for his post-graduation. Bharath appreciated the fact that Pavan was transparent with him. He asked Pavan to keep HR updated with the information. He said the organization encourages upskilling of its employees. As a mentor, his advice to Pavan was to join work and spend a few years exposing himself to solving technical problems relevant to the industry. After that, based on his performance, the Company may sponsor him for his higher studies. Pavan liked that decision and decided to go with it.

At the end of the session, Pavan realized how important it was for him to express his thoughts to Bharath. He appreciated the importance of everyone expressing thoughts clearly and getting help from their mentors through regular feedback. That way one can improve his/ her communication. As a professional, one needs to be assertive in communication – whether it is oral or written. We should be able to convey our opinion in a short and succinct manner. Bharath mentioned a term which Pavan found funny – he called it ‘elevator pitch’. After he joined as a GET and even later, if he bumped into the CEO or anyone from senior management and they asked him what he did, he should be able to explain quickly before they get out of the elevator. And most importantly, impress them so that they could recall him when they meet again.

Pavan makes his first “elevator pitch” to Kavya
Pavan makes his first “elevator pitch” to Kavya

Pavan was quite lost in these thoughts as he walked down the corridor and reached the elevator. When he got into the elevator, pressed the button for the ground floor and turned around, he met the most important person on whom he had to practice an extempore “elevator pitch” - Kavya. If the idea of elevator pitch is to introduce yourself in an interesting manner and ensure that the other person remembers you, then Pavan has scored a 10/10 on his maiden speech. By the time the elevator touched the ground floor, he felt that his life has become something like a movie on a fast forward mode. Kavya had come to submit her certificates. Both of them had some time and decided to head to the canteen.

Note:

All opinions and points-of-view expressed above are those of the authors and do not represent that of any other individual or organization.

References

  1. Business Model Generation, Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur

  2. Ikigai, The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles

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Dr Shankar Venugopal | Ramachandran S

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