The Twitter-addicted, eccentric CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, knows very well how to use the micro-blogging platform to further his business interests. His one-line reply to an Indian Twitter user on challenges his electric car-making company is facing in India, has led to a tsunami of replies by Indian ministers, all of whom are inviting his company to their respective states.
If you didn’t know, Tesla had set up an office in Bengaluru in January 2021. It was set to launch a few models of the self-driving electric cars in India soon, but that has not yet happened. Recently, an Indian Twitter user asked Elon Musk when Teslas would be available in India.
Still working through a lot of challenges with the government— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 12, 2022
This is not the first time, he was asked the question or the one he replied to. YouTuber Madan Gowri had also previously asked Musk on Tesla’s launch.
We want to do so, but import duties are the highest in the world by far of any large country! Moreover, clean energy vehicles are treated the same as diesel or petrol, which does not seem entirely consistent with the climate goals of India.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 23, 2021
Since then to now, Musk’s reply has been the same. He says that the EV company is working with a lot of challenges from the Indian government. This time, his tweet got some interesting replies from Indian lawmakers; no not the ones from the ‘Indian government’, Musk mentioned about facing challenges with.
It started with Telangana’s Industry and Commerce Minister, Kalvakuntla Taraka Rama Rao.
1. KT RAMA RAO’S TWITTER PITCH TO MUSK
Hey Elon, I am the Industry & Commerce Minister of Telangana state in IndiaWill be happy to partner Tesla in working through the challenges to set shop in India/TelanganaOur state is a champion in sustainability initiatives & a top notch business destination in India https://t.co/hVpMZyjEIr— KTR (@KTRTRS) January 14, 2022
The Minister promised to work through challenges with Tesla to set up shop in Telangana.
Actor Vijay Deverakonda seconded KTR's pitch to Musk on Twitter, and went on to add that the 'government here in Telangana is terrific too'.
.@elonmusk - Come to Hyderabad - India!!!It will be epic to have you ?The Government here in Telangana is terrific too..— Vijay Deverakonda (@TheDeverakonda) January 15, 2022
2. SIDHU INVITES MUSK TO PUNJAB
I invite @elonmusk, Punjab Model will create Ludhiana as hub for Electric Vehicles & Battery industry with time bound single window clearance for investment that brings new technology to Punjab, create green jobs, walking path of environment preservation & sustainable development https://t.co/kXDMhcdVi6— Navjot Singh Sidhu (@sherryontopp) January 16, 2022
Soon, after KTR’s tweet, other Indian politicians also rushed to make their offers known on the micro-blogging platform. The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President Navjot Singh Sidhu also tweeted to Elon Musk saying that they will make Ludhiana the hub for EV-making and battery manufacturing.
3. MAHARASHTR MINISTERS JUMP ON THE BANDWAGON
It did not stop at Telangana or Punjab, even Maharashtra Water Resources Minister Jayant Patil invited Musk to establish a Tesla manufacturing plant in the state.
.@elonmusk, Maharashtra is one of the most progressive states in India. We will provide you all the necessary help from Maharashtra for you to get established in India. We invite you to establish your manufacturing plant in Maharashtra. https://t.co/w8sSZTpUpb— Jayant Patil- जयंत पाटील (@Jayant_R_Patil) January 16, 2022
4. WEST BENGAL MINISTER CHIPS IN
West Bengal Minister for Minority Affairs and Madrassa Education Md Ghulam Rabbani invited Elon Musk and his car company to the eastern state saying that ‘Bengal means Business’.
Ghulam Rabbani's tweet to Musk also brought back memories of 2007-2008, when Tata wanted to set up its Nano factory in West Bengal's Singur. The now-ruling, then-Opposition TMC, back then, led protests that eventually led to the Tatas deciding to move Nano out of West Bengal. Twitter, of course, didn't miss the irony in Ghulam Rabbani's tweet to Elon Musk.
Also, it is worth mentioning and impossible not to note that all these states are non-BJP states. BJP is the ruling party at the Centre, which Musk said his company was facing challenges with.
NETIZENS REACT TO THE OFFERS
The unusual exchange between Indian lawmakers and the CEO of Tesla has sent Indian Twitter into a riot. Some tweeted in praise of the ministers for reaching out to Musk with offers, while others criticised the actions.
While it is great to see several states reaching out to @elonmusk & assuring him a red carpet...every business owner & job creator in the country would also appreciate similar concern.Indian entrepreneurs can create multiple #Teslas & collectively infuse more capital into states— Sudhir Mehta (@sudhirmehtapune) January 16, 2022
Most notably, the West Bengal minister's Tesla pitch turned into a politicial slugfest on Twitter, with BJP IT Cell Chief Amit Malviya's dig and the subsequent flood of reactions from Rabbani.
You might think it is a joke. But it isn’t!West Bengal’s minister in charge for Minority Affairs and Madrasa Education has made an offer to Elon Musk to come invest in WB.His pitch will start with Mamata Banerjee’s record on post poll violence and end with Singur agitation? pic.twitter.com/5ZpfSppLGg— Amit Malviya (@amitmalviya) January 16, 2022
WHEN THERE IS NOISE, THERE ARE MEMES, OF COURSE
Other netizens did what netizens do the best, make memes out of the situation.
Elon Musk reading his Twitter mentions from random Indian ministers right now. pic.twitter.com/SMslJ0xpSN— Trendulkar (@Trendulkar) January 16, 2022
On the other hand, government sources told Business Today's Siddharth Zarabi that Elon Musk was once again using social media to put pressure on the GoI.
Indian govt rejects @Tesla founder @elonmusk claims on so-called challenges.GoI sources say Musk is once again trying to put presure on the govt via social media.Officials reveal Tesla wants India to reduce import duties on cars without any commitment of producing in India.1/2— Siddharth Zarabi (@szarabi) January 13, 2022
Certainly, it is habitual of the world's richest man to single-handedly influence various markets and even governments using just one tweet (remember Bitcoin?).
BUT WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FACED BY TESLA WITH THE CENTRE?
Elon Musk pictured at a Tesla event in the US. File Photo: Getty Images
1. Import taxes. Earlier, Elon Musk had complained in a tweet that India’s import taxes are the ‘highest in the world by far for any large country’.
For example, Tesla Model 3, one of the rumoured cars slated to launch in India, with a global price tag of US $39,990 or nearly Rs 30 lakh, is expected to cost around Rs 60 lakh in the Indian market with import duties.
Currently, the Indian government levies 100% tax on imported cars with more than US $40,000 price tag, and cars less that US $40,000 are subject to 60% import taxes. Reportedly, the Indian government will reduce the import taxes and offer other benefits only if Tesla Inc invests in building a manufacturing facility in the country.
However, Tesla wants to test the price-sensitive Indian market before making any such commitments.
2. Importing from China. Tesla prefers China as its import destination keeping in mind the ease and cost of importing, but the Indian government wants to reduce the imports from its neighbour.
We still don’t know the terms and conditions under which the Indian ministers have invited Tesla to their states. But going by Maharashtra and Punjab’s offers, it seems like they are also interested in more than a showroom with imported cars. Besides that, it is unclear how the company will avoid the import duties, as that decision lies with the Centre.
In the recent past, several foreign automobile makers, like General Motors, Harley Davidson, etc, exited from the country due to various reasons, including poor performance in the price-sensitive Indian market. Whether Teslas ever grace the Indian roads or not needs to be seen.
But will you pay double the global price for a Tesla car, even if you could afford it?