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We are engineers who do our own job: Rajiv Bajaj takes a dig at electric vehicle startups

“I am surprised that battery, motor makers have launched electric vehicles and what surprised me even more is that some who were importing TV, fridge, mobiles have also started selling electric scooters," the Bajaj auto MD said.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: Oct 16, 2019, 11.46 PM IST
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Bajaj Auto is the first mass market two-wheeler maker to have unveiled electric scooter Chetak.
NEW DELHI: Bajaj Auto Managing Director Rajiv Bajaj, who is known for his strong opinions, took a dig at the slew of start-ups selling electric two-wheelers which have mushroomed in the country over the past few years.

“I am surprised that battery, motor makers have launched electric vehicles and what surprised me even more is that some who were importing TV, fridge, mobiles have also started selling electric scooters. Whereas some failed automakers have launched products in electric scooter space, other two-wheeler makers went down south and invested in electric two-wheeler start-ups as if it was not their job. But we at Bajaj are engineers who do our own jobs,” said Bajaj without citing names of rivals.

“While the country’s largest two-wheeler maker Hero MotoCorp has made investments in Bengaluru-based electric scooter start-up Ather Energy, Micromax co-founder Rahul Sharma launched electric motorcycles branded ‘Revolt’. Bajaj Auto is the first mass market two-wheeler maker to have unveiled electric scooter Chetak.

Bajaj, who said that the vehicle would not be tagged higher than Rs 1.5 lakh, did concede that the company would initially lose money on the vehicle but made light of the matter saying losses often translated into higher valuation for companies as seen in the case of Ola, Flipkart and Tesla. “I have seen the stock price of new start-ups going up because they are burning cash. So, this is our venture to burn cash and make our stock prices go up”, joked Bajaj.

Bajaj added the intention of this new venture is not to make money but rather be ready for the future. He, however, clarified the company will not get into battery making or strive to create a charging infrastructure in a bid to promote the venture. Bajaj informed, “Around 15 years ago, when the then Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit had announced the switch to CNG, there were 1-2 CNG pumps in the city. We accounted for 88-90% of three-wheelers sold, our customers were quequeing up for 4-6 hours. They did not burn the CM’s office but broke our show-rooms. CNG infrastructure came up eventually. What we are seeking to do is break the chicken-and-egg equation, it will always happen that demand will precede infrastructure and not the other way around.

In fact, since June 21 (Niti Aayog meeting to discuss timelines for shift to electric two-wheelers and three-wheelers), Bajaj said almost half of his ‘thinking time’ is now spent strategising on electric vehicles.

“When I heard about the electric vehicle policy I thought…When the going gets tough, the tough goes to the government (ie Gadkari), ” he said.

He added when he approached the minister, he offered him lunch, much like a sacrificial lunch and then informed him that he had directed the government think-tank to place the ‘sword at the neck’ and the effort since has culminated in Chetak.

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