Interview with Sameer Mahapatra, Country Manager-India & SAARC, Aeris Communications

Vinod Shah Posted on: 2023-07-04 12:15:00 Viewer: 5,104 Comments: 0 Country: India City: New Delhi

Interview with Sameer Mahapatra, Country Manager-India & SAARC, Aeris Communications (Sameer Mahapatra, Country Manager-India & SAARC, Aeris Communications)

Sameer Mahapatra is the Vice President and Country Sales Head-India & SAARC at Aeris Communications. He is an experienced leader with a demonstrated history of working in the telecommunications industry for the last 20 years. He has been a part of the industry’s top corporates like Standard Chartered, VSNL, Reliance Communications and Vodafone India Limited.

He has had deep experience in developing emerging markets with specific focus on Managed Mobility, ICT, IoT and Cloud Computing services for enterprise customers. Proven track record of Change Management, Consumer Insights, Fast Track Growth and New Product launches.

First, kindly share a brief on your professional journey and your vision with Aeris Communications.

I am currently working as a Country Manager of India & SAARC at Aeris Communications. I began my career about 23 years ago in Enterprise sales and in the telecoms sector. Over the years, I have developed global management experience in the telecom and Internet of Things sectors with a strong background in growing emerging markets. Managed Mobility, ICT, IoT, and Cloud Computing services for business clients are areas of strong expertise. My earlier portfolio was managing leadership roles at prestigious corporations such as Standard Chartered, VSNL, Reliance Communications, and Vodafone India Limited.

The current assignment at aeris gives a unique opportunity to create one of India’s largest and most reliable IoT SAAS company catering to varied industries. Vision is to become the go to and most reliable IoT company for organisations fast adopting to IoT in India.

Can you provide an update on the current status and growth of the electric vehicle market in India? How has it evolved over the past few years?

The Indian electric vehicle (EV) industry is the nation's newest sunrise industry as electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular as an alternative to internal combustion engines. The government rules promote greater EV usage to help achieve pollution objectives by 2030, this increase in popularity is beneficial. According to the IESA, India is currently the world's fifth-largest market for automobiles, which includes both internal combustion engines (ICE) and electric vehicles. By 2030, it is expected to overtake China as the world's third-largest market.

Since 2019, when the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles (FAME) scheme was launched, the government has been providing subsidies and incentives for the purchase of electric vehicles and the establishment of charging infrastructure.Numerous factors, like as government programmes, rising public awareness of environmentally friendly transportation, falling battery prices, infrastructural improvement, and innovation and collaboration, can be credited for this increase in demand. According to the Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association's (IVCA) most recent forecast, the annual production of EVs would top 9 million units by 2027.

India has seen a rise in EV startups and investments in the sector. Many new companies are focusing on the development of electric vehicles, battery technologies, charging infrastructure, and mobility solutions. This entrepreneurial activity is contributing to innovation and driving the growth of the EV ecosystem. Even though the EV market in India is still in its nascent stage, but it has been showing promising signs of growth and development.

What steps are being taken to address the infrastructure challenges, such as the establishment of charging stations, to support the widespread adoption of electric vehicles?

Government programmes have been crucial in encouraging the expansion of the electric car market in India. In order to increase the affordability and accessibility of EVs, the government has implemented policies and programmes including the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) plan, which offers financial incentives to EV providers, purchasers, and manufacturers. The Indian government has a lofty goal of 30% EV penetration by 2030 and has put in place a number of rules and incentives to promote EV adoption. These policies include tax breaks, EV buyer subsidies, and funding for the construction of charging infrastructure.

The rising demand for environmentally friendly transportation is another significant factor driving the Indian EV industry. Additionally, a number of international automakers have declared plans to establish EV production facilities in India in response to the government's push for domestic manufacture through the Make in India initiative. As a result, domestic EV manufacturing and supply will rise, further stimulating the market.

Another important factor driving the Indian EV industry is the growth of the infrastructure. One of the biggest barriers to mainstream EV adoption has been a lack of charging infrastructure. The Indian government is aggressively working on creating the appropriate charging infrastructure to address this issue. According to the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP), there should be a charging station every three miles in towns and every 25 kilometres on highways by the year 2025.

Are there any specific financial incentives or subsidies available to individuals, businesses, or fleet operators to promote the transition to electric mobility? How can one access these incentives?

Since the beginning of the EV adoption, India's EV financing environment has advanced significantly. There arestill issues like insufficient charging infrastructure and significant upfront expenditures for EVs. However, the EV finance landscape in India has seen a substantial transition as a result of the introduction of numerous government programmes and private sector initiatives.

In India, the specific financial incentives and subsidies for electric mobility were primarily governed by the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles in India (FAME) scheme. The FAME scheme provided support for electric vehicles (EVs) in the form of incentives and subsidies to both individuals and businesses to provide a direct subsidy on the purchase of electric vehicles. Government incentives, such as those given to customers, homegrown battery production, state-level subsidies, and a reduction in the GST rate will all contribute to the growth of EV adoption in India.

The Indian government has also unveiled a number of additional initiatives to encourage the use of EVs. Private sector investment in EV charging infrastructure has been stimulated by the government's goal of having 1,000,000 public charging stations by 2030. In an effort to encourage the use of EVs in their individual states, some state governments have also introduced their own EV regulations.

For EVs' digital journey, NBFCs have also introduced a number of financing plans with better rate alternatives and expedited loan processing. These programmes, which were created based on income patterns, repayment behaviour, or capacity, have increased the adoption of EVs in India and made them more accessible to a wider audience.

What are the financing options available for individuals and businesses looking to purchase electric vehicles? Are there any special loan schemes or financial assistance programs for EV buyers?

Many banks and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) offer vehicle loans specifically for electric vehicles. These loans provide individuals and businesses with the necessary funds to purchase an EV. Some EV manufacturers also have tie-ups with financial institutions to provide attractive financing options to their customers. These tie-ups often come with special interest rates, flexible repayment terms, and quick loan approval processes.

AMU Leasing is one such NBFC that provides an exclusive financing platform for a varied range of 2-Wheeler and 3-Wheeler EVs. They help manufacturers, businesses, and retail customers to achieve mass adoption of EVs. Their partnership with Aeris also enables them to track these EVs in real time, cross-sell and upsell related services and goods, as well as develop a projected churn model, assuring a distinctive and seamless ownership experience throughout the customers' use of electric vehicles. 

Businesses and organizations can also access specialized fleet financing options to electrify their vehicle fleets. These programs can provide favourable financing terms and other benefits to support fleet electrification initiatives.It's essential for individuals and businesses interested in purchasing electric vehicles to research and compare the financing options offered by different banks, financial institutions, and EV manufacturers. They should consider factors such as interest rates, loan terms, processing fees, and eligibility criteria to choose the most suitable financing option for their needs. Additionally, keeping track of government subsidies and incentives can help further reduce the overall cost of purchasing an electric vehicle.

How are public-private partnerships being leveraged to facilitate the financing and development of electric mobility projects in India?

Public-private partnerships assist in the development of new technologies and solutions to improve the performance, efficiency, and affordability of electric vehicles (EVs). By combining the strengths of the public and private sectors, PPPs significantly contribute to the development of EV infrastructure in India, including charging stations. A cooperation between the Indian government and private businesses to build thousands of EV charging stations across the nation was announced in 2020. The corporate sector would offer funding and technological know-how, and the public sector would support regulations and policy.

Better coordination and planning of the charging infrastructure is facilitated by cooperation between public and commercial organisations. The role of the Government is essential in developing policy frameworks, standards, and making sure that charging networks are in line with more general transportation and energy objectives. They must ensure that charging stations are carefully placed to maximise their impact and reduce potential conflicts with other land uses or infrastructure projects by collaborating closely with commercial partners.

The government also collaborates with private financial institutions, venture capital firms, and impact investors to provide funding and financial assistance for startups, manufacturers, and infrastructure development initiatives. These partnerships help mobilize capital and make financing options more accessible to promote the growth of electric mobility projects. EV projects in India benefit significantly through these collaborations and the expertise, resources, and investments these private entities provide.

Are there any government-led financing schemes or initiatives specifically aimed at supporting the manufacturing or research and development of electric vehicles and related technologies?

The Indian government has taken significant measures to assist the expansion of the EV business, including providing financial incentives through the FAME-II programme, raising national awareness of the advantages of EVs through public speaking, and lowering the GST on EV purchases to 5%. These regulations have increased the demand for EVs and helped India transition to a more environmentally friendly method of transportation.

The National Electric Mobility Fund (NEMF)& the Technology Acquisition and Development Fund (TADF) are also set upto provide financial support for research, development, and manufacturing of EVs and their components in India. The government, through various departments and agencies, offers grants and funding opportunities to support R&D activities in the field of electric mobility. This includes grants for developing advanced battery technologies, electric vehicle design, charging infrastructure, and other related areas.

What role do financial institutions, banks, and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) play in providing loans and financing solutions for electric vehicle purchases or fleet electrification?

Financial institutions, banks, and non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) play a crucial role in providing loans and financing solutions for electric vehicle (EV) purchases or fleet electrification. They offer vehicle loans specifically designed for purchasing electric vehicles. These loans provide individuals and businesses with the necessary funds to buy EVs.NBFCs also offer fleet financing solutions to support the electrification of commercial vehicle fleets. These solutions help businesses transition their fleets to electric vehicles by providing financing options for bulk purchases. Some financial institutions also provide Equated Monthly Instalment (EMI) schemes to allow individuals and businesses to pay for their EVs in monthly instalments over a specified period, making the cost more manageable and affordable.

Financial institutions collaborate with automakers and dealers to offer attractive financing options directly at the point of sale. This partnership enables seamless financing solutions, including on-the-spot approvals and streamlined documentation processes, making it easier for customers to finance their EV purchases.These entities contribute to the growth of the EV market by providing accessible and affordable financing options, which ultimately support the transition to sustainable transportation.

How are startups and innovative business models contributing to the growth of electric mobility in India, and are there any specific financing options available for these entities?

Startups bring fresh ideas, technological advancements, and disruptive business models that help accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and support the overall ecosystem. Currently in India, startups are emerging as significant players in the manufacturing of electric vehicles. They are developing innovative and affordable EV models suited to Indian market needs, including electric scooters, three-wheelers, and small electric cars. These startups contribute to expanding the product range and offering diverse options to consumers interested in electric mobility.They are also actively engaged in the development of advanced battery technologies and charging infrastructure solutions using those solutions to optimize charging infrastructure, enable grid integration of EVs, and facilitate efficient energy utilization. 

In terms of financing options for startups, there are incubation programs offered by government agencies, industry associations, and private incubators. These programs provide mentoring, access to networks, infrastructure support, and sometimes financial assistance to nurture and grow innovative startups. The government also provides funding schemes and subsidies that include grants for research and development, financial support for manufacturing facilities, and subsidies for EV adoption. Startups can leverage these programs to secure funding and support for their projects.Crowdfunding and Peer-to-Peer Lendingnetworks is another platformthat can raise funds from individual investors to showcase their projects and receive financial support from individuals interested in supporting innovative and environmentally friendly solutions.

What are the challenges or barriers faced in financing electric mobility projects in India, and what measures are being taken to overcome them?

Financing electric mobility projects in India brings about several challenges and barriers like the higher upfront cost of EVs as compared to conventional vehicles due to the cost of battery technology. This can pose a barrier to adoption. To address this, the government has implemented schemes like the FAME program, which offers subsidies and financial incentives to reduce the purchase cost of EVs and make them more affordable for consumers.

Additionally, there also financial institutions that provide loans and financing solutions tailored to EV purchases, such as lower interest rates or longer repayment periods.Aeris Communications has also recently announced its partnership with AMU Leasing, a leading Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) to revolutionize the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in India. Through this partnership, Aeris' experience in IoT technology and AMU Leasing's finance services will be combined to create novel solutions that will increase the accessibility and affordability of EVs for individuals and companies.

Electric mobility projects also involve the adoption of relatively new and evolving technologies. This introduces uncertainties and risks related to technology performance, durability, and maintenance. To mitigate these risks, the government supports research and development programs, collaborations with industry stakeholders, and the establishment of testing and certification facilities. These measures aim to enhance technological capabilities, standardize performance, and improve consumer confidence in EVs.Insufficient charging infrastructure is a significant barrier to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. To bridge this gap, the government is taking measures to expand the charging network by encouraging public and private investments in charging infrastructure.

What are your thoughts on the key initiatives and policies undertaken by the Indian government to promote the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and encourage the electric mobility revolution in the country?

The transition to EVs is no longer unknown; the only question is when. Future infrastructural development, governmental incentives, and the introduction of new EV models are all predicted to result in exponential growth in adoption levels.The Indian government has developed policies and plans over the past few years, such as the FAME (scheme), with the goal of achieving 30% EV sales penetration for cars by 2030. It requires a competitive technology infrastructure to sustain EV adoption at this advanced level.

The government provides various benefits for electric vehicle owners, including simplified and expedited registration processes, reduced road tax, and lower toll charges. These measures help incentivize consumers to choose electric vehicles over conventional vehicles.The government has set a goal to electrify a significant portion of public transportation, including buses and taxis. Initiatives such as the FAME scheme provide financial incentives for the adoption of electric buses and support the establishment of charging infrastructure for public transport.The Indian government has also engaged in collaborations with other countries and international organizations to share best practices, knowledge, and expertise in the electric mobility sector. These collaborations help in capacity building, technology transfer, and policy development.The Indian government is committed to promoting electric vehicles and encouraging the electric mobility revolution in India. They focus on creating a conducive ecosystem for EV adoption, supporting manufacturing, developing charging infrastructure, and incentivizing consumers to choose electric vehicles over conventional ones.

Anything else you would like to share with our readers in respect to Aeris's role in helping NBFCs achieve digital transformation.

Aeris Communications and AMU Leasing have been in a partnership since January 2023 to develop innovative solutions that close the gap between IoT technology and financing. The various payment plans and incentives offered by AMU Leasing have made it simpler for customers and companies to adopt EVs.In order to follow its sponsored vehicles and offer real-time statistics on vehicle usage, driver behaviour, and remote control of the vehicles in the event of non-payment, AMU Leasing leverages Aeris' in-house IoT solution technology, Aertrak.

Aertrak helps AMU-financed EVs operate more efficiently, with lower NPAs, and overall better performance. Using this information, AMU may forecast churn, cross-sell and upsell more services and products, and more.

Utilising their IoT knowledge, Aerisis currently developing unique solutions for several NBFCs and insurance firms. The business is still working to complete joint projects with partners in the Lending Management Software (LMS) industry to build a strong platform that will allow financiers to lend more effectively and safely.

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