Dear Mr. Chetan Maini,
You don’t know me. Yes, we both might be from India, but currently we live in different parts of the world, we probably speak different language at homes. But there is one thing common to us, a passion for electric vehicles. Because we both strongly believe that that is good thing for lots of reasons.
Well, you know all of that. And you were smart enough to start a electric car company way back in 90s. But then some things happened and at this moment you do not seem to be in the driving seat of that venture.
That’s the point that drove me to write this letter. We need to fix that. We need a person who is madly in love with electric cars to be in charge of making electric cars.
Why? Well, I am not going to go in to tons of reasons why electric cars need to be made. There are environmental reasons, there are national security reasons, there are human rights reasons. You know all of that.
I am going to make a different point.
I am currently residing in USA. There are giant car companies here. For long long time they were just in a slumber. Each one had tremendous money and knowledge invested in internal combustion engines. Each one sort of knew that others are too much invested in ICEs too and were not going to move away from burning gasoline anytime soon. Each one had no motivation to switch, so collectively the whole bunch had no reason to step up and make the switch to electric cars.
Here let me take a bit pedagogical tone. If we were to apply game theory to explain this social behavior, this would be a classic “Nash Equilibrium”, named after the great mathematician John Nash.
Wikipedia Quote -“In game theory, the Nash equilibrium is a solution concept of a non-cooperative game involving two or more players in which each player is assumed to know the equilibrium strategies of the other players, and no player has anything to gain by changing only his or her own strategy.”
So big auto players had anticipated each other’s strategy and had not much to gain by making electric vehicles, or at least they were not sure if the gains were worth the losses.
Then Tesla happened.
In less than a decade, the company shot to fame making world class electric cars that were selling like hot cakes and grabbing all the headlines. People loved the cars and were willing to be on waiting list rather than buy available big name cars. In a span of two years, model S went from nowhere to the top selling luxury car in the market.
Each of the big auto player knew that at least one other major player was going to emulate Tesla and make electric cars. And when one of them made a move, and if they were successful, perhaps more would make that move. And each big auto player knew that what they were thinking was exactly how everyone else was thinking too. At first they anticipated others not to change. Now they anticipated others to change.
In a nutshell, now the risk in ‘not doing anything’ was too much. The status quo was no more a reasonable strategy. The Nash equilibrium had broken down.
The effect was dramatic. In less than five years after arrival of model S, there have been announcements of at least 20 electric cars that will hit the market in coming few years.
This is what needs to happen in India.
Even in India, at the moment there is a Nash Equilibrium. Automakers are repeating electric vehicle problems like parrots and are showing no interest in solving them. Mahindra, who builds E2O, is doing a spectacularly terrible job in promoting it.
We need someone to deny the big Indian automakers the luxury of a comfortable status quo convenient for the bureaucratic corporate culture. We need someone to light fire under their asses. We need someone to break this Nash Equilibrium in India. We need a cultural change, a revolution in this particular sector.
This is why we need you. Because at the moment you are the only person we can think of that has capability and passion to do this. And if you did this, we assure you that we, the electric vehicle enthusiasts in India will work hard. Do not for a moment doubt our numbers. I visit India regularly and I have met plenty of people who have talked to me about electric cars without knowing that I am die hard fan of EVs. I have met dentists who talked Electric cars while drilling my teeth. I have met elderly women who talked about electric cars while making tea for me. I have met 11 year old who wanted to be engineer so he could make electric cars.
A few days back my cousin met a 97 year old woman who lived close to the river in Dahisar, Mumbai. That woman had lived in the area for her whole life and had swam and drank from the river in her childhood. She lamented the fact that you cannot cannot even go within 30 feet of the river because it’s so badly polluted. She does not know the world of high tech gadgets, but mention of anything that will reduce pollution makes her eyes light up. So apart from tailpipe emissions, the issue of general pollution is in peoples’ minds and they want to make a statement whichever way they can. A good electric car just gives them an avenue to make a powerful statement.
What do you need? Crowdfunding? Done. Just start a page. You need grass root volunteers? Done. Just send a message on our board and social media. You need customers? Give us a good product and trust us , we will be waiting in line in rain. You need government support? Thing seem to be promising there too.
Breaking down of Nash equilibrium under right conditions can create impact on much large scale, wildly disproportionate to the amount of effort exerted. We have those conditions in India at the moment. We need someone to pick up the hammer.
So Mr. Maini, we need an electric car revolution, and we want you to start it. Will you?