Back in the day, when big auto would lure away execs to join them, the magnifying glass would often zoom in on their existing ideology, where they had worked, the number of years they had put in, the corporate culture they were in tune with and how they would adapt in their new environment. Also on that checklist was how many successful cars they had conceived and launched. In recent times, however, those parameters seem to have moved, with key requirements shifting from the demands of the corporate environment to the rigours of product and design in the new digital world.
Here's how that's shaping up in the automotive landscape. Most recently, Suman Mishra who comes from a strategy background and has worked with Cipla and McKinsey, replaced Mahesh Babu as CEO and director at Mahindra Electric Mobility, a division of the SUV-maker M&M. Then earlier we have the example of Pratap Bose, former head of design at Tata Motors, who also moved to M&M as Executive Vice President and Chief Design Officer of Global Design, and will work on all of Mahindra's future products.
Around three months ago, Asha Kharga, an executive at Axis Bank, joined M&M, as chief customer and brand officer. Marketeer Neha Anand was roped in by Mahindra from HCL Technologies to head digital marketing, CRM, and communications.
Other new recruits by M&M include Tata Motors' Ajay Saran Sharma and Pankaj Dhamane from Renault, and while the action may seem to be largely driven by M&M, the trend is evident among other auto players too.
Toyota Kirloskar Motor, for example, recently announced the addition of Manasi Tata (Kirloskar) as a director, in a clear bid to usher in the next generation of leadership, another likely pattern to emerge from the country's largest auto players.
Interestingly, the ramping up of talent has extended out to the two-wheeler players as well.
In May, Wayne Burgess got aboard the Bhavish Aggarwal-led Ola Electric which is looking to disrupt the two-wheeler universe with its design price and electric motor. Burges has been a veteran design expert and worked with premium players that have included Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin, and Lotus Cars. He wasn't the only one. Ola also parachuted in Yongsung Kim, a long-time Hyundai /Kia executive who will lead global sales and distribution for the two-wheeler player with global aspirations.
Hero MotoCorp recently appointed former Samsung CMO Ranjivjit Singh as its new CMO. While it's not uncommon to bring in executives from FMCG companies to run two-wheeler outfits because of the common denominators in distribution, geographies, target audiences, and price points, the trend line for the exchange of talent between car-makers is less common. Also, some of these new age companies are more like service providers as opposed to pure-play auto companies.
But why the frenetic talent churn, and is this the start of a wave of hiring? At a macro level, some companies needed a major recast, others are betting on new models of business and management, and the remainder are doing so to stay in the game, and remain competitive.
However, at a granular level, mobility is undergoing a reinvention worldwide and in India, the new buzzwords are electric, autonomous driving, and vehicle design. Technologies related to those three burgeoning areas are also willy-nilly going to be the key pillars on which auto companies of the future are going to and are being built and, hence, dictate the hiring trends emerging.
Namely, design, EVs and the requirements for a business that could go global and or operate on a subscription basis. Then consumer preferences have evolved over the decades and churning out vehicles that are only going to check some of the boxes on a customer's laundry list won't cut it.
A car made today regardless of its OEM's origin and DNA has to be comfy, economical, good-looking, tuned for scalability to an electric engine, and contemporary. That's something Korean player Kia. for example, has fathomed well and used to its advantage and captured significant market share in two short years.
Moving along, dyed-in-the wool legacy auto players who have built their factories and products over the last half century would have no choice but to revamp and entirely recast their cars and how they are designed, given that EVs loom closer than ever before both from a regulatory as well as a pro-choice point of view.
That's a fact that is only precipitated further by the announcements coming from Tesla who has registered its India office and will be rolling out new business ventures, adding talent and entering the fray in the near future. Translate that to more hiring, and it remains to be seen if they pick up top brass from the likes of TCS, Infosys, or Wipro (unless of course homegrown players do it first.)
Third and finally, for any car company that wants to win customers and defend market share in the future, it won't only bring in talent from other companies that are rivals or leverage CEO-cross pollination. They will be adding competencies that they could come from e-commerce, content marketing and consumer tech players as well.
Let the hiring begin.