Interview with Prashant Radhakrishnan, Vice President of Sales and Marketing (India), SemaConnect, leading provider of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Prashant Radhakrishnan, Vice President of Sales and Marketing (India), SemaConnect
Prashant Radhakrishnan, Vice President of Sales and Marketing (India), SemaConnect

We are living in times that are in dire need of sustainable measures to be adopted for environment conservation. Nurturing a conscience towards powering eco-friendly, futuristic, noise and emissions-free electric vehicles is SemaConnect, one of the pioneers and global leaders in the EV charging industry in the world. In 2009, Mahi Reddy (Founder & CEO, SemaConnect) foresaw the upcoming revolution in E-mobility. It excited him both due to it being the next big opportunity as well as a way to clean up the environment. After careful thought he identified a gap in charging infrastructure as the opportunity that company can focus on and build scalable solutions to fix that gap. Harsha Kollaramajalu (CTO) and Mark Pastrone (COO) joined him as founding team members.

Prashant Radhakrishnan, Vice President and Head of Sales & Marketing (India), SemaConnect who envisions establishing SemaConnect as a key player in the nascent EV infrastructure space in India is now leading his way to disrupt the space with his extensive large company and entrepreneurial enterprise experience. Having an influential academic background with MBA from IIM Calcutta, Prashant has over 25 years of experience in Sales, Marketing, Operations and Business Management. He has extensive experience in the Internet and Technology industry with stints in MNCs and start-ups over the years. Before joining SemaConnect, Prashant was indulged in his entrepreneurial stints, delving into Technology & the F&B industry. 

At SemaConnect, Prashant is responsible for running major facets of the business including Sales, Operations, Marketing and Customer Experience. He believes that selling is an empathy-led, process-driven, and knowledge-intensive discipline.

In an exclusive email interaction with Motiverge, Prashant Radhakrishnan, Vice President and Head of Sales & Marketing (India), SemaConnect tells us more about the brand’s inception, marketing strategy for Indian EV market in the post-COVID world, journey so far, motivation, future plans and more.

Below are the excerpts from the interview:

Tell us more about SemaConnect.

SemaConnect is a provider of Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure in the country. The company makes, sells and supports smart EV charging infrastructure. It is one of the pioneers in the industry and has been in existence since 2009 in the US. All of the company’s R&D, Technology, Design and Manufacturing has been done out of India since its inception. The company is now bringing the experience and expertise in EV charging to the Indian Market with its range of smart and networked EV chargers for 4 wheelers and 2/3 wheelers. 

How did you come up with this name- ‘SemaConnect’?

Mahi Reddy, Founder & CEO was playing around with some names and finalised ‘Sema’ as the first part of the name and it stands for “Superior E-Mobility Automation”. ‘Connect’ was a vision of network enabled devices that can charge e-vehicles.  

What were the first few steps during and after the launch of SemaConnect?

SemaConnect decided that it is going to be a soup-to-nuts provider in smart charging infrastructure. Thus focused on building both the charging station devices as well as a network to control and orchestrate the charging process (Station Provisioning/installation, discovery of stations, driver authentication, Charging session monitoring, metering, billing & payment collection). Within a year the Company had developed a certified product and solution and had its first installations in the USA.

Image Courtesy: SemaConnect

Have you raised funds so far? 

Yes. 3 rounds. SemaConnect has raised multiple rounds of funding from VC and PE funds with the final round of funding done last year from Trilantic North America.

How has your journey been so far?

It is an exciting journey – it is not often that one gets to almost invent an industry and hence the journey is naturally exciting. The doosra’s that come along make the journey more exciting.

How big is your team?

In the Sales & Marketing side of the business, we are a small team of 4 people tasked with starting the business in India.

What makes you different from your competition? What is the USP of your brand?

First and foremost, we will be the only brand in India to have an experience of over 10 years and over 12000 deployed and operational stations running in any part of the world. We believe that the solution that clients need is not a box that someone sells and goes away. One has to successfully, deploy, maintain, service and run over a period of years. We believe that our ability to deliver this using world class systems, processes and technology with the proof of having delivered it….sets us apart!

How do you see market growth, response and changes in the post-COVID-19 world?

Luckily, Covid has not stopped the world from innovating – in fact Covid has spurred innovation in all sectors. This is true in the EV space as well.

As India opens up, the consumer will find a much larger variety of options for EV’s in 2 & 4 wheelers. The larger set of options and better technology will spur the market. This will lead to an emerging and urgent demand for EV infrastructure as well.

Tell us about your motivation. What keeps you going despite all the challenges?

We have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference in changing the way in which the world commutes. It is a transformational time in many ways and like in every such opportunity, one needs to find the solutions to all challenges that come up. I find motivation to be relatively easy given the size of the challenge.

What are the ways in which SemaConnect is creating a suitable environment for large-scale acceptance of HEV fleets?

SemaConnect does not have a potent view of how HEV’s will evolve – we don’t think it is too viable – we believe BEV or battery powered EV’s are the way the market is heading and that will be the future of the market until some brand new technology comes along. 

Representational Image

How do the US and Indian EV Markets differ? What do you think will be the biggest challenge in India?

There are many differences between the Indian and US markets. The US market is predominantly centred around 4 wheelers which would adapt to EV’s whereas the market is more skewed towards 2 and 3 wheelers. In addition, there is standardization of protocols for chargers in the US whereas India is still evolving in this space.

Please share your views on how Indian government is doing to support EV charging infrastructure projects.

The government’s push via the FAME subsidy, reduction in GST, waiver by states on road tax etc are all welcome nudges from the government and they should look at doing more in this space. What the government should avoid is getting too involved in the setting of standards and let industry arrive at their own solution which they will give the incentives at stake. The base requirement of electricity is already there in most residential and commercial buildings – so the “fuel” exists. Government should allow private players to evolve solutions (which they will) for building adequate infrastructure in this space.

After firmly establishing the business in North America, what are your plans for India?

We are very bullish on India in the medium to long term – it might take a couple of years for the Indian market to reach an inflection point in EV’s but it will get there eventually. We are bullish about this future. To achieve success we obviously need to adapt our products to the Indian market. Towards this, we are developing products in the 2/3 wheeler space and building solutions to help in servicing the cargo and fleet markets in India.