Mahindra: “Formula E could be the tipping point.”


After Mahindra Racing’s Karun Chandhok took the team’s first set of points in the first ever Formula E race Anand Mahindra, Chairman and Managing Director of Mahindra & Mahindra, looks back on the pioneering event along with the path the team took to be part of the debut season. He also talks about the future and development of the electric series.

Signed on as the eighth team to join the championship, Mahindra joined as their business interest in electric vehicles grew.

“We came into Formula E primarily from the point of view of a manufacturer,” reflected Mahindra. “We made a major bet on electric vehicles; we invested in a company called Reva – which was a pioneer in electric vehicle technology not just in India but in the world.  We have a strong visceral feeling that electric cars have to take off, and at some point they will.”

His confidence is not necessarily a personal one, as he sees much in the current market that suggests electric cars will become more mainstream.

“Tesla have shown that there is not only potential for electric cars but also great value in it,” he said. “Renault believes in this too and we have seen them become popular in Europe. So the writing is on the wall. The only thing holding it back really is the perception that electric cars are only for the greens of the world, the environmental enthusiasts. That they’re not fun to drive, there’s no glamour or legend to them, as gas powered cars have accumulated legends and stories over the years.”

The words and mantra may sound familiar with Alejandro Agag, CEO of Formula E, sharing a similar sentiment. Mahindra also believes that Formula E could be a crucial pivot in the electric car industry.

“Frankly we think Formula E could be a tipping point; motor racing brings that glamour, that speed and action, that excitement and essentially the sexiness to the business that was lacking,” said the Mahindra supremo. “Maybe we’re wrong, but that’s why we’re here. We’re placing our hopes on this. It may take some time, but the calendar that Formula E have created is a glamorous one, including some of the most exciting cities in the world.”

It’s not just business for the Indian team, there’s a keen enthusiasm for success that runs alongside.

“Any successful corporation in a competitive marketplace doesn’t like to lose,” stated Mahindra “Winning is an integral part of succeeding in business, so we’re here to win. Obviously if we want to maximise and leverage the potential of Formula E will certainly don’t want to be laggards in the race.”

Winning is difficult regardless of  sporting experience, but with the inexperience of Formula E and the teams, the recipe for success is all the more difficult. The challenge excites the team regardless.

“My particular mental makeup is such that unpredictability excites me,” he said. “I think I find complete predictability boring, it doesn’t leave much discretion for excitement and discovery. So who knows, but let me put it this way. I was talking with our drivers recently and beginning to understand how cerebral the job of a Formula E driver is. It’s a very different order, which is not to say of course that Formula 1 doesn’t involve strategy, but here, I was joking that you almost have to be a part geek to be a successful driver in Formula E.”

Mahindra himself attended the Beijing event, once again showing his keen interest in the series, despite other interests including Moto GP. Reflecting on his time in China, he left thoroughly impressed by what he had seen.

“The atmosphere in Beijing was incredible, it was great to see so many people supporting a new type of motorsport,” enthused Mahindra. “The excitement and buzz on the grid and at the start of the race was tangible. The cars looked quick around the street circuit and there was overtaking every lap. It demonstrates that you can still create an exciting motorsport event whilst using and developing green technology. Based on this I see Formula E generating a strong fan base as it travels around the world.”

Travelling will continue for Mahindra, with the second race set for next month in Putrajaya, Malaysia. The event will take place on the 22nd of November. Chandhok will be hoping to add points to his tally, with team-mate Bruno Senna looking to get off the mark in Formula E.