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‘Battery swapping in electric vehicles is a good solution but with some challenges’

Apeejay Nerul alumnus Ronak Nagori, who is working with Ola Electric, says two-wheelers and three-wheelers will drive the EV revolution in India

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At a time when government entities are promoting electric vehicle (EV) usage in the country, have the players been successful in generating enough demand? What are some of the major challenges when it comes to EV? What makes them expensive? Apeejay Nerul alumnus Ronak Nagori, Product Lead, Ola Electric, shares his insights in an interview. Edited excerpts:

What is the future of electric vehicles in India, in terms of growing awareness and demand?

This has been the focus of my work for the past three years. EV as a phenomenon is here to stay. With fuel becoming expensive in the wake of limited resources, you need to look for solutions that are sustainable with a cheaper cost of operations. In India, about 95 per cent of the cars are sold to the bottom of the automobile owner pyramid. Barring Covid, we have more than three lakh cars sold every year. Of these, almost two-and-half lakh that are sold are low-cost cars. Technology in EV is going to scale up, which makes them expensive. A lot of the customers may not even be able to afford these cars. To overcome the challenge, the government and private players like Ola have stepped in to see how they can make the technology affordable. As a result, we have also had subsidies and rebates from state governments come in. EV is gradually garnering interest. We are expecting two-wheelers and three-wheelers to adopt the technology a lot faster than four-wheelers, with the former being comparatively more affordable. Many public buses are also becoming electric, thanks to incentives provided by the government.

The other challenge lies in the infrastructure push in terms of the availability of adequate chargers and charging stations. Customers usually feel anxious that they might run out of charge before reaching the station and be stuck, which, at this stage, is a very big deterrent in the purchase of EV.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman mentioned a battery swapping policy in the recent Budget. What are its pros and cons according to you?

It usually takes up to four to 16 hours to charge a battery. Battery swapping basically means replacing an old battery with a charged battery. Prima facie, this seems like a good solution, but it comes with certain challenges. Every company has set a different standard for batteries to further monopoly in their technology. This becomes a deterrent when it comes to battery swapping. You cannot blame the companies simply because it is their business at the end of the day, in an industry that is investment-intensive. Even charging stations are facing a similar issue due to differences in charging ports. However, the way around it is to introduce a large enough EV fleet, where all the vehicles would be using the same battery. That is when battery swapping will work.

What sort of an influence did your experiences at Apeejay Nerul have on your personality?

I joined Apeejay Nerul in the third standard. My first memory is of being overwhelmed by seeing the size of the school and a feeling that I would have to struggle to make friends. Over the years, I went on to make a huge number of friends. Even now, my closest friends are the ones from school. The relationship that I developed with the teachers, which continues to date, is equally precious. It is very easy to complete schooling and sever all ties but if you really want to stay in touch, it is because you have had a beautiful experience. For me, it was always about how much time I could spend in school—I had 100 per cent attendance in school for about eight to 10 years.

Apeejay introduced me to quizzing competitions. Once I proved my credibility, I started representing my school in more and more competitions, which boosted our confidence tremendously. Early recognition plays a big role in an individual’s life. In classes 11 and 12, I was given more opportunities to showcase my leadership capabilities in the form of a house captain. It has been 12-13 years since then and in hindsight, I believe all of the exposure contributed to my personality in a big way. Besides, the teachers motivated us to ensure our knowledge was not restricted merely to books. This kind of support and encouragement was extended to every student, which is what makes the school so special.

After engineering from BITS Pilani, you went on to pursue an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad. Is it a common trajectory for students? Why did you choose MBA?

In my batch, 50 per cent of the students who studied at Apeejay went on to pursue a master’s degree, while the remaining went for an MBA. In my case, I entered engineering thinking I would get to learn about automobiles and also coding, which I had developed some interest in. Through the course, I realised I was keen on delving into the strategic aspect of things—more than knowing about how an automobile works, I was interested in the customer experience, for instance. This shift, in a way, decided the career path I was going to take. That’s how I went for my MBA.

When you are just out of college, it is difficult to arrive at a decision about your next step. Owing to a sense of dilemma initially, I did apply to colleges for a master’s degree as well. But MBA was a leap of faith for me. My father pushed me to appear for CAT. Of course, when things unravelled gradually, it turned out to be a much better option.

Can you share some tips for students who are planning to appear for CAT?

*A fundamental knowledge of mathematics and logical reasoning, and sharp analytical skills are things that MBA looks for. So, you need to focus on Quant, verbal skills, etc.

*More than speed, you have to practice accuracy to ensure maximum answers are correct. Identify the areas that are your strengths and make a strategy accordingly for the way you want to approach the question paper. I would recommend around 100 mock tests to be able to reach that level of accuracy. Along with this, time management is something you need to work on. You need not sign up for a coaching class; all the information and exam papers are available online.

*You need to be prepared to answer every possible question about every life decision that you have taken before you sit for the interview. Make sure there is coherence in your narrative. This will help you when you are cross-questioned by the interviewer.

*Do not go overboard in an effort to impress the interviewer. Commit to things that you know like the back of your hand and have thorough knowledge in. You need to have a strong point of view on topics.

Disha Roy Choudhury is a Principal Correspondent at Apeejay Newsroom. She has worked as a journalist at different media organisations. She is also passionate about music and has participated in reality shows.

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