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Fight for top talent gets fast & furious in auto space as traditional firms look to hire CXOs to drive EV plans

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In the highly competitive automobile industry in the country, companies – including traditional auto majors, emerging electric vehicle ( EV) makers and component makers – are engaged in an intense race for talent, poaching CXOs and senior-level executives from one another.

In an industry undergoing rapid transformation amid technological advancement and the global need to check CO2 emissions, traditional companies are looking for senior executives to drive their EV expansion plans while nascent EV companies are going all out to attract senior executives from legacy automobile firms and related industries, company officials and search consultants said.

Nearly two-thirds of top-level talent moves in the auto sector in the last 6-12 months were within the industry, with EV companies attracting a bulk of the talent, show data put together for ET by recruitment agency Ciel HR.

The EV sector, which is attracting professionals from across industries, had about 40% of the talent intake from the traditional automotive industry, showed the data based on over 500 leadership movements in the auto industry.

“The automotive and EV sector is undergoing a transformational phase with many traditional automakers investing in EV technology and new-age EV companies rapidly expanding,” said Aditya Narayan Mishra, CEO of Ciel HR Services.

“Senior professionals with backgrounds in traditional automotive and EV sectors are high in demand,” he said. “In demand are leaders who can understand the evolving landscape and lead with innovation and agility.”

Apart from movement within the industry, a lot of senior professionals are also being roped in from other industries such as FMCG, consumer electronics, ITeS, and industrial design among others.

“The competencies and skills that are needed for the future are different from what automotive companies have today,” said Shenu Agarwal, managing director and CEO of Ashok Leyland. “The increasing adoption and penetration of new technologies and the changing customer demographics and hence expectations are going to have a lot of bearing on the talent the auto sector needs today to build a very different future tomorrow.”

A lot of the new talent requirement may have to be met from adjacent industries or brought from outside the sector, he said.

Agarwal himself is among senior executives hired in recent times, having joined the Hinduja group flagship from Escorts Kubota Ltd in December last year.

Other recent top-level moves include Balasundaram Radhakrishnan, chief operating officer of Motherson Group, who was with Ford India earlier; Subrata Mitra, head of government relations and policy at Ather Energy, who came from Ericsson India; Sreeram Venkateswaran, President & chief business officer of Daimler India Commercial Vehicles (ex-Rivigo); Ganesh Mani, COO of Ashok Leyland (ex-Hyundai); Nalin Jain, Executive Director CFO of Skoda (ex-Mahindra); and Vijay Bhatt, senior EVP 2-wheeler business at Kinetic Green (ex-Piaggio).

“The churn in top talent is spurred by disruption in the auto sector with new technology, electrification journey, software usage going up, and many new entrants in the EV space,” said Kavan Mukhtyar, partner and leader automotive at PWC India. “The trend will be even more pronounced in the next one year with lots of jobs chasing a limited number of people,” he said.

Sulajja Firodia Motwani, CEO of Kinetic Green Energy, said, “The electric vehicle space is attracting a lot of senior talent from traditional automotive companies as it’s currently seen as a high-potential growth sector.”

Motwani said Kinetic Green is currently building its top management team

Because the next five years would be “disruptive years” for the company. “The last 12-24 months we have intensified the e-business and hired for the electric 2, 3-wheeler businesses, R&D, and supply chain,” she said.

Driven by an uptick in consumer demand, the Indian automotive industry has been witnessing a surge in sales across segments. While the entry level two-wheeler sales have been stagnant, other segments have seen a spike in growth.

( Originally published on Nov 20, 2023 )
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