According to the Society of Manufacturers of Electric Vehicles (SMEV), electric vehicle sales, excluding e-rickshaws, grew by 20 percent in India in 2019-20. As many as 1.56 lakh EVs were sold in the country as against 1.3 lakh units in the previous fiscal.
The seeds of EV were first sowed in the year 2013 when the government initiated the National Electric Mobility Mission, with an objective to put 6-7 million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2020 and 30% e-mobility by 2030.
As the government is making headways into EV infrastructure development, policy creation and incentives, they have also created a blueprint for a specialised workforce that aims to generate 10 million jobs.
The strategy includes creating a skilled workforce around design and testing, battery manufacturing and management, sales, services and infrastructure of electric vehicles.
Is the Fear of Job Losses Real?
The traditional auto sector plays a prominent role in the economic output of the country, comprising about half of the manufacturing GDP and 7.5% of the overall GDP in India. Additionally, this sector employs over 35 million of India’s workforce both directly and indirectly, attesting to the huge footprint it has in livelihood creation.
With Indian government’s aggressive push towards clean mobility, the existing automotive workforce is under perpetual fear of losing their jobs, more so after the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the economy.
“I don’t think existing manpower needs to have huge concerns over complete job losses. There will be some amount of job transformation, where someone will have to take initiative in terms of also learning about electric vehicles. Some amount of job losses could happen, however, there will be many more new jobs,” he shared.
Scope of Job Creation in EV Sector
TVS Motors entered the EV market in 2020 with their two-wheeler iQube. Their Spokesperson shared with TBC,. “Electric vehicles continue to witness an influx of innovation in technology and business models to help reduce the cost of ownership, adding job opportunities as seen in the past by the automobile industry,”
There are several new-age startups and OEMs that are setting up manufacturing units to fuel clean mobility. Ather Energy plans to establish a unit in south India with an investment to the tune of USD 50 – USD 100 million dollars, and Mahindra Electric invested Rs 100 crore last year for a manufacturing plant in Bengaluru.
These are only two of the many examples from a range of players who are showing interest in the technology of the future, which is likely to provide the necessary impetus for more opportunities for the EV workforce.
Skilling is the Need of the Hour
Similar to that of the telecom industry, the transition from ICE vehicles has its share of challenges but there exist several opportunities in this shift. Arindam cautions that since the existing workforce is unaware of the technical know-how’s of EVs, it is critical to retrain them.
“One of the challenges is that it’s new and different to the user, so right from the Research and Design space to manufacturing, sales to servicing, to driving, I think it affects all kinds of skilled manpower. Even in the case of electric buses, if we look at the current state transport units, we will need to have the drivers retrained in terms of handling e-buses, because their engines are a different kind; they do not behave the same way as an ICE engine.” he said.
The existing workforce transition will need a clear strategy, but it is also important to remember that new jobs facilitated by EV adoption replace existing jobs, rather than completely displace them.
An EV powertrain has fewer components than an ICE powertrain, which many fear could lead to reduction in the manpower r equirements for, say, the service technicians, but Arindam maintains a positive stance.
“Agreed that since Electric vehicles do not have as many moving parts as compared to ICE engines, the number of service technicians required per vehicle will come down to some extent. AT the same time there will be newer jobs which will get created,” added Arindam.
ASDC has partnered with Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) to impart basic EV technology skills to college students. Besides, ASDC is also offering online programmes to provide basic orientation to the younger workforce to bridge the skill gap.
Similarly, Autobot India, a leading company in EV design and development consultancy, offers certified courses in skills required for the industry. In 2019, the company also launched India’s first on-campus EV learning center in collaboration with GL Bajaj Institute of Technology. Their CEO, Ashwini Tiwary, sharing a different perspective with TBC, said, “We have been in the EV market since 2016, and we have seen this market growing. In the past, we have done a programme with OEMs, where they had plans to upskill certain people and designate them for electric vehicle projects. At the initial level, they are not going to hire people unless and until they are going for mass manufacturing. They already have the internal resources and parallely upskill and absorb them. They are looking at absorbing talent that is already available in the industry and no fresh talent.”
“There is practically no EV based curriculum in engineering colleges in India, both at the graduate and masters level. The people coming out of these colleges are not up to the mark, like what is required by the company. We identified this challenge in mid-2018, and we are working with several organisations, including ASDC. As EV experts, we are helping them to develop and design the EV courses and programmes, relevant to the industry requirements. We also introduced programmes in a standalone capacity to train the manpower, who are unemployed. There are people who have 1-2 years of experience but are unemployed, or some want a job change. We train these people for 3-4 months, upskill them and then we can supply this manpower to the industry,” he added.
The government’s push and incentives for local manufacturing will help create an indigenous EV supply chain in the country. Also, with the lower tax rate of 15% on new manufacturing companies, private investment is likely to go up.
“I think there is a lot of effort going on in component manufacturing with respect to electric vehicles. A lot of new manufacturers are wanting to localise the parts in India and when this happens, the volumes will start growing. I think there will be a new demand for a workforce for this. So, I think overall it will be a much larger win for the Indian workforce to get involved in the EV manufacturing process,” said Arindam.
Retrofitting existing vehicles too will lead to further job opportunities, which will need a good knowledge of ICE technology, and provide a platform for existing ICE technicians to upskill themselves. Many states in India like Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Kerala have already taken steps to redesign the curriculum for engineering, polytechnic colleges and ITIs to suit the EV industry requirements.
“Our focus has always been on providing sustainable low-emission vehicles at an affordable price to customers. We achieve this by innovating technology on a continuous basis and in turn adding new skill sets to our engineering prowess. We are consistently working towards upskilling our workforce to ensure smooth transition and multi-skill development, which will be helpful in catering to the demands of both ICE models with revised emission norms, as well as EV going forward,” shared the TVS spokesperson.
Getting the policy right during this transition phase, be it in skilling, or in developing technology and infrastructure, will further facilitate the process and help realise the ambitious dream of clean mobility.
The world is turning towards EVs and we need to grab the opportunity to train and upskill the 35 million or so workers to take advantage of the market.
(Edited by Anu Choudary)