To build a business empire that India could remember for generations, a small-town industrialist, Narain Kumar Lohia, went ahead of his time to shape his dreams into reality and set up a conglomerate that is now called Lohia Global.
A small part of the multi-business group, Lohia Auto, has earned government recognition and is working on its most-awaited project of launching electronic vehicles on Indian roads.
At a time when buying a car was a luxurious deal for many in India, Lohia dreamt of a futuristic idea to manufacture electric vehicles. However, due to the stringent regulations on transportation in the 1990s, the statement couldn’t be executed then. And it almost took a decade to materialize the project.
To put the late grandfather’s dream on the global map, the third-generation entrepreneur of Lohia Industries, Ayush Lohia, took the reins of the business in his hands to accomplish the mission.
Electric Vision to Transform India
In 2008, when Narain Kumar Lohia gave the leadership of Lohia Auto to Ayush, he wanted to revolutionize India with green clean transportation. There were two primary reasons, said Ayush. “One was pollution, and second was the idea of saving foreign currency in giving and buying crude oil,” he added. Since the company had been the leading exporter of crude oil, Lohias had a deep understanding of investing foreign currency into the business, which could help them in the long run.
After learning the dynamics of business while working under other verticals of the family business, Ayush was ready to take up the million-dollar project of manufacturing electric vehicles in 2009.
Challenges Faced in Driving the Growth Engine
At an early age, Ayush cut his teeth in business to create awareness about the use of electric vehicles and give the company an identity in the market. Under the immense pressure of stringent policies on the permission of electronic vehicles in India, Lohia Auto went through a lot of ups and downs. But the company left no stone unturned to overcome a queue of challenges.
In 2009-12, the entire industry was reeling under tremendous pressure because of certain reasons. Lohia Auto was trying to get subsidies, relaxation in customs, and excise duties for electronic vehicles.
“As most of the key components that come in use while manufacturing the product had to get imported in India, therefore convincing government was a big necessity at that time,” said Ayush. But the major challenge we face is to change the minds of consumers.
When asked about choosing the two and three-wheeler segment in EVs, Ayush said that then and even now, 70% of the consumers use two-wheelers in India. We wanted to start catering our services from B2B spaces at first.
When asked about what differentiates Lohia products in the market? Ayush said, “We are giving mileage of almost on one charge 50-80kms. Normally, other e-vehicles give 40-50kms on one charge.”
Battle for Clear cut Long Term Policy for EVs
On being asked what changes he had brought to the business, Ayush said, “There was no support at that time. To bring the relaxation in the custom and excise duties, we had to convince government.” Because of the existing presence in the industry, Lohia Auto got the JV done with a US-based company.
In 2014, when PM Narendra Modwasot was elected, Transport Minister Gadkari was instrumental in taking up the e-vehicle game.
“We got the approval of 3 vehicles. That time it was illegal. We never wanted to do any work which is illegal. There is no clear cut policy on e-vehicles. That still needs to be standardized.,” said Ayush.
When asked about the profitability of the business model in the long run, Ayush emphatically said, “I clearly know that this is the future of the vehicle market. The only question is how to sustain this model in the market. That’s how we got into gasoline vehicles. That’s our strategy, and we are working on it religiously.”