By Horace Luke
It was a Wednesday, just a few months ago on April 21st, and an unexpected request had come in - I was asked to speak at a partner's company-wide all-hands meeting. Something I'd never been asked to do before. But that day was different, just like our new partner, Hero MotoCorp.
A few hours earlier, together with my new friend, Dr. Pawan Munjal, the chairman and CEO of India's Hero MotoCorp, and I had announced a strategic partnership and joint venture between his company, the world's number one two-wheel vehicle maker, and my company, Gogoro, the world leader in urban battery-swapping and mobility innovation. It was an announcement that generated global attention and highlighted the urgent need for India to transition to sustainable electric transportation. The early press coverage was overwhelmingly positive.
Dr. Munjal invited me to join Hero's all-hands Zoom, where he would be sharing details about the announcement. I was asked to share my side of the story and speak to Gogoro's commitment to moving fast in our go-to-market activities with Hero. As I spoke, I began to see comments from employees on the video call. One employee wrote, "it's going to be a game-changer!" Another, "Welcome Horace to the Hero team." It was an unforgettable experience and an unexpected way to kick off our relationship.
I share this because it provides a glimpse into who Dr. Munjal is as a person and a leader. He is someone who cares deeply for his country, his employees, his partners and his friends and family.
The Meeting That Began A Friendship
My friendship with Dr. Munjal began like many partnerships and executive relationships do, with conversations about our respective companies. During one of those early meetings with both teams on the call, Dr. Munjal asked everyone to drop off the Zoom so he and I could speak one on one. There were no surprise deals or secret agreements. Instead, we had a deeper discussion about our personal journeys, work experiences, families, and motivations.
It was fascinating to hear how Hero had started as Hero Cycles, a bicycle manufacturer. Dr. Munjal explained that his father had transitioned from bicycles to motorcycles so that Hero could broadly and positively impact transportation in India and improve the overall quality of life there.
He spoke of life in India, his journeys abroad, and how those experiences made him realize the severity of environmental pollution. He made it clear that, in addition to governments implementing carbon-reducing policies, companies like Hero and Gogoro needed to introduce new technologies and innovations to solve this ongoing crisis. His commitment to adopting new ways of thinking to establish a new era of electric transportation in India was evident.
When I spoke about my experience at HTC and leaving to start Gogoro, it seemed to resonate with Dr. Munjal. I shared that I had wanted to build a company that was both innovative and deeply positive for society and future generations. And that transforming the urban energy paradigm for two-wheelers in the world's most populated cities would bring about that positive change. I explained that Gogoro was committed to "doing well by doing good," a statement often used by one of our key investors and mentors, Al Gore, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Vice President of the United States.
It was during this conversation that our friendship was cemented and when everything began to click. We were leading our companies with the same passion, enthusiasm and focus for environmental sustainability to make cities cleaner and more livable for everyone. I also realized then that "this guy is as crazy as I am."
Two Men In A Hurry
What solidified this partnership and our friendship were the priorities we shared. Hero and Gogoro aren't just focused on business success but introducing positive change by solving complex challenges with technology and innovation and making these new solutions and business models accessible to everyone.
Dr. Munjal and I are two men in a hurry. We are anxious because we know the electrification of two-wheeled vehicles may be one of the fastest ways to reduce carbon emissions in India and worldwide.
When Gogoro launched in 2015, we were outsiders entering into an entrenched industry dominated by traditional fuel, ready to be disrupted. The incumbents routinely criticized us and said we would never be successful.
Today, we can say that we've proven them wrong. Gogoro has not only become the largest and most innovative battery swapping network in the world but leading vehicle makers have also embraced our platform and ecosystem, including Hero.
In search of a solution that would transition India, one of the largest two-wheel vehicle markets in the world, to a cleaner electric transportation future, Dr. Munjal could see that a partnership between our respective companies would bring immediate and real change. It was clear that Hero had studied Gogoro's technologies and our business model in Taiwan as one that could be successfully replicated in India.
Though various challenges arose in establishing this partnership, Dr. Munjal and I always returned to our burgeoning friendship and this simple idea: 'You trust me, I trust you, we will do this together.'
Making a Difference For The Future
Dr. Munjal often speaks with great concern and compassion for his employees, their families, and the people of India. Just a couple of days before our announcement, Hero had adopted the Aravali Biodiversity Park in Delhi, a park that provides seven percent of Delhi's oxygen needs. They'd previously planted more than 750,000 trees in the Indian state of Haryana.
During these past few months, as COVID has significantly impacted India and its people, it's been inspiring to see Dr. Munjal and Hero leverage their retail strength across the country to distribute ventilators and help save lives.
I've come to learn that Hero is a different kind of company and that Dr. Munjal is a different kind of leader. For him, there are fundamental human values that precede business objectives and success. This is a refreshing perspective from a successful global leader and one that resonates with me.
I am so pleased with our partnership and progress and look forward to a successful and long-term collaboration and friendship that introduces a new clean and sustainable transportation era in India.