Talent in the Tech Hubs

Tata on the lookout for talent in the tech hubs.

Tata Motors is in the process of setting up an office in Palo Alto, the startup hub in the US, joining a long list of global carmakers that have built up a presence in the home of the world's most disruptive technology companies.

The company, India's largest automobile manufacturer by revenue, is already engaged with half a dozen startups. The move to go to the Californian city is part of a plan to create a network of offices in global startup hubs — Tel-Aviv, Portland, Warwick and Pune being the other — and partner with budding technology entrepreneurs in its efforts to define the future mobility solution for the company.

A team of 10-15 executives will scout for technologies including on autonomous vehicles and alternate fuel to make Tata Motors future-ready against the world's leading carmakers, a senior Tata Motors executive told ET.

The strategy for the future goes beyond products to creating “innovative mobility solution” and the company is looking at how the startup world can contribute to the new future of automobile industry, with facets of shared mobility, connected vehicles technology and alternate powertrain taking the centre stage, said Tim Leverton, president and head of product and advanced engineering.

“The companies need to have skills which they did not have in the past; the only way to add new skills to forge innovation is tying up with the startup ecosystem from around the world,” Leverton said. While Tata Motors is currently engaged with half a dozen startups, according to Leverton, it probably needs to be interacting with 20-30 or more.

"How do you find out about the next big stuff? How do you know that it exists? Whether it is worthy enough to be able to shape it into what you want or even be part of something? These networks will allow us to access the new ideas for future,” Leverton added.

Technology, customer engagement and digital ecosystem are three key pillars of innovative mobility solution that Tata Motors is working towards and the new business models form the centre of this pyramid for future, the company said. The offices in Palo Alto, Tel Aviv and Pune will engage aggressively with startups, while the R and D initiative of National Automotive Innovation Centre with Jaguar Land Rover will focus on core automotive technologies. Tata Motors, for instance, won’t have to reinvent on the emission technology. It can dip into the solutions created by JLR and adopt it into its own vehicles.

The company realises that to tap into the dynamic world of startups, the approach has to be different. The head of engineering at Tata Motors said a lot of startups don’t want to work for a big group as they seek independence. They work in ones and twos and threes. And so the local office is needed to be able to interact in their terms and to get the value out of them.

“You need to be able operate a network of interaction with startups which is appropriate to the culture they have. You can’t apply a big corporate sort of normal regime of due diligence. You need to be able to say, ‘let’s do some work together’ and find confidence and then develop that to do it quickly," Leverton said.


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