The pace at which the automotive industry is growing has made way for a number of female leaders. Although the automotive industry is not something that many women would choose as a career path, there are a few who work their way to the top by breaking stereotypes. We are talking to Ms. Madhumita Agrawal who is the CEO and co-founder of an EV startup – Oben Electric. She shares her journey on how she went from running a consulting firm to creating her own electric vehicle startup.
What made you choose the electric vehicle industry in your career path?
I come from an EV background. When I started my first company, my first start-up, which was a technology consulting firm, I worked in the electric vehicle industry, which at that time was growing across the world. I worked for 5-6 years with different clients. We did consulting, research and technology for them, helping them improve existing technology or develop new technologies. Once you work in a field, you get knowledge. I became interested as I learned more about electric vehicles and the technology behind their manufacture. It was an opportunity that I saw. I understood the technique and all the problems to solve. I always had a small dream of starting a product company. This beautiful day has come when I have taken a leap of faith and whatever Knowledge I have gained, whatever experience I have gained, allow me to move forward.
Were you ever drawn to the automotive industry early in your career?
I used to ride two-wheelers and generally enjoyed them a lot during my studies. However, this faded over time. Over the past few years, I have worked in various fields except Pharma. New technologies have always fascinated me. The automotive industry, especially in the area of electric vehicles, has brought new technologies and a curiosity that I couldn’t help but explore. I wouldn’t say I always wanted to work in the automotive industry, but the space, the opportunities it offered, and the problems I could help solve certainly pushed me to take the plunge.
Did you have to deal with prejudices?
Not at all, I didn’t face any kind of bias. As a woman, you face prejudice, especially when you are in a leadership position. You’re wanted, ok it’s a woman but if you start to make sense to them they see you as another peer. So the minute you make sense, the differentiation between female and male disappears. This applies to everyone, men too. If you don’t have business acumen, whether you’re male or female, you’ll be viewed with some bias. I didn’t feel any prejudice from my subordinates, in fact I feel they really admire me because as a woman I took that step, I feel very respected for that at least in my organization and in the industry. I think as women we should stop thinking that, Hey! I’m a woman, it’s not for me or it’s for me, if it’s in your mind that people perceive you that way. I am CEO, whether I am a woman or a man, I have the same responsibility.
What kind of help and support have you received from your family?
I think family is a very important support system that you can have. As soon as you go out to study, you go out to really choose a dream that you want to achieve. I think your family is a very strong support system. When we are not married it is your father, it is your brother and of course your mother who supports us blindly. When you look at the male members of the family, they play a very important role, so when we are children, it is the parents, your father your brother, then you are married, it is really your husband who supports. It’s not just that you say that I support for the sake of saying, but there are also sacrifices that your spouse makes, your partner makes so that you can go out and work. It’s really a co-creation, it’s not just one person doing it. So I think that’s very critical. In my career and in my life too, there have been critical moments where family support has really changed things for me and made my career path what it is today.
Speaking of the electric vehicle industry specifically, what role do you think women leaders will play in shaping the future of electric vehicles?
The electric vehicle industry is a very big industry and it will only get bigger with time. What I think is that women entering the automotive industry will attract more women. We should encourage more women to participate. Where women had added a different thought process into everything. It’s something my male counterpart had mentioned once that women bring a different perspective. Every time we have discussions, the women bring a different perspective and that helps in the business. Women will bring more dimensions, more perspective on how we run businesses, how we build things and I think that could be great.
What does the future of Oben EV hold for us?
We are a B2C brand, so we strongly believe this is not a new thing that I am introducing to the market, we have all driven two wheelers, we are all used to two wheelers, every house in India has a two-wheeler. We are here to move them to electric vehicles, to better mobility solutions by giving them a similar or better experience. This is our vision as an organization. People won’t switch to new products or new technologies unless it gives them something better than what they were using before. Our goal is to offer different products that suit different markets, especially motorcycles in different segments, because motorcycles are very complex products and that’s what we want to build. The brands are built on motorcycles. We will certainly also build scooters, but at the moment we are focusing on different types of motorcycles, which will come and you will see in the future, this is Oben’s vision.
So we’re going to see more bikes and scooters?
Yes, you will definitely see more bikes than scooters