Opinion: India can do without Tesla, but Tesla can't do without India

JVs are the route Chinese automotive companies will use to create a deep base in India.

It may be perceived a slur today, but as a kid, the term “Chinaman” was used quite often in cricket. A leading sports journalist explained to me that it was what left-armed wrist spinners were called in the yesteryears. The likes of a Kuldeep Yadav or Tabraiz Shamsi today. But why “Chinaman”? “Maybe because of the guile,” he said.

A few days ago, we witnessed the first Indo-Chinese car JV being announced with much fanfare, but there’s a lot of guile too. Overlook the fuss about whether JSW-MG will create another  ‘Maruti moment’ but focus instead on another mega moment being created, that of a seamless India-China blend, akin to our local Chinese food; Chinjabi anybody?

A think tank called Global Trade Research Initiative went on to say a few days after the JSW-MG partnership that JVs will actually allow China to slowly but surely enter the Indian market. And JVs are the route that Chinese automotive companies will use to create a deep base in India.

You see, China does not see a potential market in tiny segments or through the binoculars of specific companies. It views India as a large market for anything to do with electric mobility. Be it components, technology, vehicles or charging infrastructure. Even if a BYD has to lie low for the next decade, component makers and technology companies can set up operations working for JSW-MG and other forthcoming JVs.

Given our stated goal of pushing electric mobility as much as possible and CareEdge Ratings’ projection that 30 percent of all vehicles sold in India by 2030 will be electric, one needs to understand the point the ball leaves the hand as well as the point it hits the pitch. Already, a third of India’s USD 20 billion ((about Rs 1.65 lakh crore) worth of automotive imports is Chinese. Given that China controls roughly over 70 percent of the world’s battery production, one can only see this share shooting up.

So the Chinese will be here, however much we might wish to evade or stonewall them. They will play the game as per India’s regulations and diktats, and also transfer technology just like the Soviet Union used to do. In fact, the JSW chairman quite candidly stated that China would be a source of R&D and technology. It was always assumed that SAIC would not close the tech tap, but now it could very well be that the flow might increase.

Thus, when the market gets a taste of the technology and products from China that are built here to local tastes – and of course with local content – there will be no looking back, both for China and India. And that is the best way of marketing China in this market, as an integral ingredient in our mobility. It will be good to see Chinese firms working with Indian automakers and supply chain bringing in new tech, because ultimately, bringing in the best of what the world has to offer is the way forward, and makes sure the customer wins.

Also see:

Volkswagen Passat sedan lives on as Magotan in China, gets three screens

MG Hector Blackstorm Edition launched at Rs 21.25 lakh

MG lines up all-new EV MPV, SUV for India

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