Nisha Qureshi

EV branding lessons from Interbrand’s Ashish Mishra

The CEO, India & South Asia, Interbrand, talks about how the agency built Vida and Switch two electric vehicle brands in India, and sheds light on his company’s vision for the country.

The electric vehicle (EV) industry is set to grow exponentially over the next decade as a result of the ongoing climate crisis. The industry seems to be in nascent stages in India, unlike the markets abroad.

According to Ashish Mishra, CEO, India & South Asia, Interbrand, a leading agency that has extensive experience in the EV category, the adoption of EVs in the country is low. There needs to be an EV ecosystem in the country.

“You need charging points, financing, manufacturing facilities, scaling, distribution, regulations, etc. A whole ecosystem needs to grow for the category to really scale and pose a challenge to or get ahead of traditional automobiles.”

According to 2022 projections from Bain & Company published in December, the Indian EV market is expected to see 40-45% two-wheeler and 15-20% four-wheeler adoption by 2030. 12-13 million electric two-wheelers and one million electric four-wheelers will be sold in India annually by 2030.

EV branding lessons from Interbrand’s Ashish Mishra

Two of the biggest names in the auto industry – Hero MotoCorp and the Hinduja Group – recently launched EV brands. Vida – by Hero MotoCorp – is an electric two-wheeler brand. Switch – by the Hinduja Group – is a subsidiary of Ashok Leyland that has commenced operations in India, with electric double-decker buses.

Interbrand, the branding agency behind brands like Jio, Godrej, Infosys and Britannia, co-created Vida and Switch.

How Interbrand co-created Vida and Switch

According to Mishra, every category is governed by a set of demand drivers of varying relative importance. The way Interbrand approaches the task of amplification of demand, is by building the most valuable demand drivers into the brand trajectories.

“We co-created the two brands with Hero MotoCorp and Hinduja Group. We conceived and designed them to be global brands. The entire experience designed for both the brands, matches up to the best global brands in the mobility space,” shares Mishra.

He mentions that for Vida, the simple brief was to create a global brand that can enable Hero MotoCorp to lead the future of mobility.

“The transition towards EV is the biggest exercise for the brand. Vida had the opportunity to talk about the impact of climate change, and target the youth, who’re the most concerned about climate change,” says Mishra.

“We found a great focus in our prime cohort – the young riders. The brand was essentially built on the increasingly palpable human truth of feeling responsible for the planet the youth will inherit. The trajectory chosen was that of leading the adoption of ‘conscious mobility’.”

Switch, on the other hand, is a B2B brand and the task was to create a next-gen EV company.

“Switch gained popularity by attaching itself to the iconic double-decker buses in Mumbai. These buses will be replaced by Switch buses,” adds Mishra. 

He says that the insight for Switch was that the idea of sustainability can’t be delivered selectively. If you want to save the planet, the whole world will have to join in and not just a handful of evolved markets (US and western Europe). The scale that the Hinduja Group and its lead auto company Ashok Leyland possesses in the commercial vehicle segment around the world, especially in the southern hemisphere, is unparalleled.

“Once again, we found a purpose-led positioning, which was to democratise the new mobility by providing equal access to all,” shares Mishra.

“Switch has a ‘=’ sign in its logo. It indicates that we’re trying to democratise EV adoption by making it accessible to not only people who can afford a Tesla vehicle and other expensive brands, but also the common man – one who can now exercise the choice of riding an EV without owning a vehicle.”

EV branding lessons from Interbrand’s Ashish Mishra

Interbrand’s plans for India

Talking about how Interbrand expects 2023 to pan out, Mishra says that the company is quite optimistic about growth, despite economic concerns.

“We continue to have a strong sentiment about growth in India, primarily because we’ve taken up some big branding exercises. We’re not a company that will get impacted by recession. If you look at the clients we’ve worked with in the past, they have all been the top and iconic Indian brands. We believe that strong brands are less impacted by economic headwinds.”

Mishra states that Interbrand has typically attracted large and traditional brands such as Jio and Godrej. However, it is now focusing on new-age businesses. Interbrand is also focusing on adding a design-led vertical to its business as well as looking at broad-basing its presence in Southeast Asia.

“With our global clients – football giants Juventus (Italy), and Spain’s Real Madrid and La Liga – and the local ones – the Indian Premier League team Rajasthan Royals and the International League cricket team Dubai Capitals – we’re also looking at creating a strong play in sports branding.”

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