Tesla Inc. has begun recruiting for leadership and senior-level roles in India, according to a person familiar with the matter, as it gears up to break into one the world’s biggest emerging car markets.
According to Business Standard report, the California-based maker of electric vehicles is recruiting for positions including a head of sales and marketing, and a head of human resources, the person said, asking not to be identified. A Tesla fan club tweeted last week the company had brought on board a senior legal counsel.
Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk all but confirmed Tesla would enter India in January after months of speculation. The world’s second-richest man on January 13 tweeted “as promised” in response to a report on a Tesla-focused blog that the automaker was in talks with several Indian states to open an office, showrooms, a research and development center — and possibly a factory.
Tesla has selected Bangalore, for its first plant, the state’s chief minister said in February. Tesla hasn’t commented. The automaker has been negotiating with local officials for six months and is actively considering car assembly in the suburbs of Bangalore, other people familiar with the matter said at the time
Local media reported last month that Prashanth Menon, who has been with Tesla for around four years, was elevated to country CEO. Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The development from Tesla comes at a time when the central government announced changes to the country’s goods-and-sales tax that may reduce the cost of owning an electric car. Tesla is also waiting for further incentives for EV makers under India’s production-linked incentive program before it makes a real push into the country.
Under the PLI, as it’s called, manufacturing incentives will rise each year in an ongoing effort to entice the world’s biggest brands to make their products in India and export to the world. Last month, India’s cabinet also approved a 181 billion rupee ($2.5 billion) plan to boost battery storage capacity to 50 gigawatt hours.
Tesla’s foray into India may well prove challenging, however, even with sweeteners. Unlike China, India hasn’t rolled out the welcome mat for electric cars. Tesla set up its first factory outside of the U.S. in Shanghai and now dominates sales of premium EVs in China. EVs account for about 6% of China’s annual car sales, according to BloombergNEF, compared to less than 1% in India.
The expensive cost of Tesla cars is viewed as a sticking point too. Although India is home to a budding middle class, pricey automobiles remain well out of reach of the vast majority of the population. The lack of charging infrastructure is another impediment to large-scale EV adoption.