Rediff.com  » Business » Tesla's Gigafactory promises to change the world

Tesla's Gigafactory promises to change the world

By Ritu Jha
Last updated on: June 02, 2015 16:43 IST
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The Powerwall 'will be great for India where there is a scarcity of electricity. The sun is there pretty much all day and there is no real good way to store its energy,' Tesla CIO Jay Vijayan tells Ritu Jha/Rediff.com. 

Image: A Tesla Model S car being charged at a new Tesla dealership in Salt Lake City, USA. Photograph: George Frey/Reuters.

Also read: 'TiECon has once again become relevant to entrepreneurs'
Have you heard of the Gigafactory? 

Jay Vijayan, image, left, Global CIO, Tesla Motors -- that manufactures premium electric vehicles -- believes the Gigafactory in Nevada will change lots of things in different parts of the world. 

“Tesla is a car that was designed with the customer experience in mind," Vijayan said, delivering the keynote at TiECon's Disruptive Entrepreneurship conference. "It is the most connected car in the planet and securely connects through 3G/4G and Wi-Fi." 

"We own and manage every stage of its core business model, from the design to engineering to manufacturing, sales and service,” Vijayan told the packed room at the conference. 

The next stage of the Tesla journey, he said, would be to produce the model 'S' with a slightly higher volume of a few hundred thousand cars. 

To reach the mass market, "We are producing the battery and the Gigafactory is going to be one of the largest manufacturing facilities in the world." 

“The big thing for us is to produce the Powerwall in volumes at the Gigafactory,” Vijayan said, “It’s a very compelling product.” 

The Powerwall, Vijayan explained, is a home battery that charges using electricity generated from solar panels. "We are going to produce the battery necessary not only for Tesla cars, but for other product lines launched very recently." 

The Gigafactory, he said, was created because "no one was able to produce the battery we need in a most economical fashion and volume." 

The huge factory is spread over more than 11 million square feet and is completely powered by solar and wind energy. 

The Powerwall, Vijayan told Rediff.com, “will be great for countries like India and many parts of Asia where there is a scarcity of electricity and sources of electricity generation. The sun is there pretty much all day and there is no real good way to store its energy right now. The Tesla Powerwall and Powerpack will be great ways to store and use energy and provide great benefit." 

What would be his advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? "The important points to keep in mind to be successful are -- first, to have a strong conviction about one's vision and a strong will to execute that vision; second, to keep product excellence and customer experience as the highest priority; and third, always think about building a sustainable business.” 

What is it like working with Elon Musk, the Canadian-American CEO of Tesla? “Elon," Vijayan said, "is the smartest and most innovative leader I have ever met or worked with. It has been a fantastic and once in a life time opportunity to work with Elon, and be part of his mission to change the world. It is challenging and not easy to keep up to his expectations all the time, but it is totally worth it to learn and bring out your best.” 

Vijayan is responsible for all of Tesla's Information Systems including applications, systems infrastructure, network, connectivity and security. 

Musk, Vijayan added, is "the smartest person I have worked with. He is super inspiring in changing the world. Even if he knows that the biggest percentage is failure, he strongly believes that if it’s the right thing to do he will completely go behind that and put everything into it." 

 


'I love to help people' 

Teenage inventor Shubham Banerjee has to balance school homework with running a company, discovers Ritu Jha/Rediff.com.

Shubham Banerjee, an 8th grader, founder of the Braigo Labs Inc based in Santa Clara, California, was the youngest entrepreneur and a keynote speaker at TiECon 2015. 

Shubham, image, left, spoke to 400 young people at TiEcon about how he invented Braigo (Braille+Lego), and how he proved that a low-cost Braille printer could be reduced in price from $2,000 to $500. 

He has received funding from Intel Capital and with support from Microsoft hopes to roll out his product by the year-end. 

"My stories revolve around blind people," Shubham told his audience. "I can't drive and drink, that my dad does… but I love to build and I love American football. Technology should not be a burden due to high cost, it is there to help us. I love to help people, and work for society, My friends at school asked me if I was retarded and out of my mind, but it's fine. Some people would say that, I guess." 

Shubham told Rediff.com that his company currently has 11 advisors and there is a lot of demand for his product,  "The company is what we say in a seed stage," he said, sounding very grown up. "After the final product is ready, then we will enter the growth phase." 

How does he manage time between school and work? His time, Shubham says, is segmented -- for school work; then company work; then media work. "Every day my mom manages my 
schedules," he says, revealing that May 8, he graduated from middle school and will be going to high school. 

"Braigo work we can do a lot virtually," says Shubham. "I have to finish my homework and class work every day. When I travel I submit all my class work and homework beforehand to school, so that I am not behind. There is no set time in a day that I spend x number of hours for a specific task though." 


'You can't take the Bay Area culture to India' 

Flipkart's Chief Product Officer Punit Soni discusses the challenges of doing business in India with Ritu Jha/Rediff.com


Do you realise what you are looking at?" asks Punit Soni, pointing to a Flipkart warehouse in an Indian village, adding that the Internet has brought a revolution to India. 

Soni, image, left, Flipkart's chief product officer, delivered a keynote speech on reinventing e-commerce and marketing using big data, to a packed room of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs at the TiEcon 2015 conference.


Technology, Soni said, has changed the perception of people in India. Seventy per cent of Flipkart's inventory goes to India's smaller cities, termed Tier 2 and Tier 3, based on population. 

Flipkart, Soni said, has changed the way it managed infrastructure, to address the needs of a country where 70 percent of the population is under the age of 30. 

“It's not just about India," he added, "it's about the world. Nobody told these people your phone is connected to data and you can make a career out of this.” 

The idea was a game-changer, he said, because 70 percent of data traffic in India is based on mobile phones. 

"In the US if I have an e-commerce company I have to make sure that I am desktop-centric. In three to four years the majority of consumers within the US are going to come from mobile," said Soni, who earlier worked for Google. 

"We are doing that today in India. And that is the future -- in the next three, four years you (in the US) will be copying the pattern that we are building right now," he said. 

Discussing with Rediff.com the challenges of doing business in India, Soni felt, "I think the supply chain overall needs more help. Infrastructurally, the country has gotten much better, but it needs much more work. " 

"Mobile-centricity is there," he explained, "but the data network is still a little flaky. With the upcoming 4G revolution, things will get better." One challenge, he added, was that a lot of the business is still based on a cash-on-delivery model, but felt it was better than just relying on the eight percent of the Indian population who carry credit cards. 

“The innovation here is not that we have built an e-commerce company, but that we have figured out how to circumvent all the infrastructure deficiency to built a world-class company,” he said, adding that things people in the US are used to is coming to India now, with e-commerce retail changing people's shopping habits there. 

How else could someone in a town like Raipur, Chhattisgarh, get Nike shoes that he has heard about, but cannot buy locally since Nike will not open a store in his town. 

Asked if he is trying to implement Google's culture at Flipkart, he balked. “No, I am not doing that. It's bull shit," he said, adding that Flipkart is truly an Indian company. 

"You cannot take the Bay Area culture to India,” he said. “India has an amazing culture of its own. You can help make it better, but it is nothing to do with… moving it there. We have to learn a lot ourselves. The buying culture, the people, the entrepreneurship are all different, yet similar." 

Asked about Amazon having invested $2 billion in e-commerce in India, Soni responded with one philosophy he has taken from his former employers. 

"Focus on solving problems for the user, don't worry about the competition,” Soni said. “And this is what I have learned at Google."

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