The Pandemic will Accelerate the Digitization of the Indian Automotive Industry: Auto Experts at OLX Auto Talk 3.0

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Auto industry experts from MG Motor, OLX, Eplane & AdvantEdge unequivocally opined that the pandemic has been a watershed moment for the Indian automotive industry and in particular the second wave will lead to a delay in consumer demand for cars and mobility solutions thereby leading to a pent up demand for the same in the coming months.

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At a recently held industry discussion by OLX Autos India called OLX Auto Talk 3.0, which brings together prominent voices in the automobile industry to discusses pertinent issues in the ecosystem, experts from the automotive ecosystem including OEM, car marketplaces & new age consumer mobility firms such as MG Motor, OLX, aerial mobility company Eplane & venture capital firm AdvantEdge chimed in that this pandemic will accelerate the digitisation of the automotive industry faster than ever before in order for the industry to cater to the new age consumer demands.

While the first wave of the pandemic definitely jolted the automotive and consumer mobility industry, experts felt that the industry is well prepared for the 2nd wave and technology such as hybrid dealerships, integrated online consumer experiences, new forms of personal consumer mobility options and artificial intelligence will be a must for the industry to safeguard itself from any further impact of the pandemic in the coming months.

The experts opined that OEM’s and dealerships specifically have adopted digital technologies faster in the last 1 year than in the last 5 years. This has led to consumer purchase cycles declining and has paved the way for a seamless adoption of automotive experiences as per MG Motor.

However while this largely remains an urban phenomenon, in smaller cities the adoption of pre-owned cars has skyrocketed in the last 1 year as per OLX with demand increasing by 130%. While personal mobility solutions remain the preferred option for few given the high ticket size, AdvtangeFund noticed that adoption of low ticket mobility solutions such as buses or transport options for last mile connectivity saw an almost 2x rise post the lockdown by a majority of the population. This was propelled by the fact that the segment saw reverse migration by blue collar workers from their villages to the cities.

While the pandemic has impacted the transport sector and OEM’s the experts were bullish on new age mobility solutions such as electric vehicles and flying taxis. Given the unavailability of proper road infrastructure EPlane envisions that flying taxis could not only help address the challenge of urban crowding by providing safe means of transport in the future but also would be easier to adopt for the industry vs electric vehicles.

In terms of electric vehicles, MG Motor is confident that electric vehicles in the coming 5 years will start featuring more into the consideration set by consumers given the rise in awareness about the environmental impact of internal combustion engine vehicles. MG Motor expects a 2x rise in sales of EV by March 2022 but cautions that the demand will scale in the EV sector if all stakeholders come together and collaborate on the common direction. The sector needs more products/components manufacturers to build up scale and more education of customers on issues around charging as range. The sector also needs to incentivise early adopters with no registration fees.

Sharing their thoughts on the new trends emerging in the industry amidst the second wave experts said

Prof. Satya Chakravarthy, Co-founder Eplane Company, said, “While there exists a massive opportunity for flying and autonomous vehicles, the ecosystem must view it as the next stage of evolution for consumer mobility. Engineering challenges with EV’s especially with heavy duty commercial vehicles, limited support available now and India’s overcrowded roads clearly demonstrate that the future of mobility must be hybrid (aerial and on road). This will not only ease the burden on the mobility industry but gradually over a period of time will also help the overall sector to accelerate innovation in alternative means of personal mobility given the heightened concerns around hygiene now.”

Talking about the way ahead for the pre-owned car industry, Amit Kumar, CEO, OLX Autos India, said, “It is inevitable that technology will play a major role in helping the new and pre-owned car industry tide over the crisis of the second wave. Technology that can help consumers buy or sell their cars from the comfort of their homes will not only assist the used car ecosystem to maintain a slow growth momentum during the pandemic but also help draw users from new areas especially the non-metros who are evaluating purchasing a used car for their mobility needs.”

Sharing his thoughts on trends in the digital car buying journey and industry trends observed by Gaurav Gupta, COO, MG Motor, said, “MG Motor has been strategically focusing on cutting new age initiatives to help define and shape the Indian mobility industry. Our innovation pillars are focused on the future of mobility which has allowed us to partner with institutes, companies & relevant stakeholders in the ecosystem to create consumer first products by leveraging AI, VR & AR to allow our consumers to seamlessly complete their car buying journeys in the absence of limited foot falls across our dealerships. We have multiple initiatives under our Umbrella MG Shield Plus. This covers – MG VPHY: contactless demo of the car and an interactive platform between our sales team and customers. Our My MG App allows customers to be able to conduct video calls with cars in service centres and even make financial transactions. Further our digital car configurator (since June 2019) is being leveraged even more now and consumers have a seamless journey from search to drive off.”

Taking a different approach regarding the rise for consumer mobility, AdvantEdge Founders Managing Partner, Kunal Khattar, said, “As a country a large part of the population cannot afford personal mobility options hence consumer mobility for these users are being catered to by new age startups and companies. Wide Scale passenger mobility especially in the first mile or last mile situations will need tech enabled startups to do so at scale which OEM’s may not be able to cater to. In the last 1 year, our portfolio of startups catering to the segment has seen a massive uptick of upto 5x vs pre-COVID levels. It is only a matter of time that we gradually emerge from the pandemic given the fact that the Indian automotive industry is extremely resilient and has learnt its lesson well from the first wave of COVID led disruption. The automotive sector and consumer mobility industry is geared to address the mobility needs of the population as the economy gradually opens up. This will be done with technology as a key enabler not just for urban mobility but also rural and semi-urban mobility.”

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