Interview for Nidhi Chawla, Assistant General Manager at Terra Motors India
The First Gem of Terra Motors Corporation
Mrs. Nidhi Chawla, PGDHR from IMT Ghaziabad, has more than 17 years of working experience. She was the first employee of Terra Motors India in 2015. She joined as a Manager-HR and has been instrumental in setting up Terra Motors India’s business and strong workforce. She has witnessed Terra Motors’ growth since its birth. Currently, she is heading the HR & Legal department. Mrs. Nidhi has always believed in one philosophy: “To win the marketplace, you must first win the workplace”.
0:16 Career before joining Terra Motors
0:52 Reason for joining Terra Motors
1:51 Current Role
2:07 Turning points for Terra Motors
5:00 Terra Motors working culture
Career Before and After Joining Terra Motors.
You’re experience when you first joined Terra Motors and reason for joining the company.
I started my journey with Terra in 2015 and I am still working here. It’s been more than 7 years. I have a total work experience of 18 years. I have worked with companies like GE-Capital, City Bank, and Aspen Institute India. So, I was working and I thought it was a monotony where there was nothing new to learn more about as these companies were already established.
I got an offer from Terra. One of my friends called me and asked, “Would you like to join a Japanese company?” You know, in India, when we hear about a Japanese company, we say “Wow! I really want to join! ” So, I went for the interview, and I cleared it. One of the interviewees asked, “We don’t have a fancy office and you have worked in renowned companies. How would you sustain this company?” So I said, “If there is something new to learn, I will sit on the road. Give me a workstation, and I will work.” You don’t have to worry about it. “
That’s how I joined, to learn something new. Because the experience which I will gain is better than that of the people who have done it, I will take it forward. That’s the only reason why I joined Terra, to bring something new from inside me. Now it’s been a good journey with them. The best part is that I don’t regret joining Terra.
Because in 2015, when I used to talk to people, Everybody used to say, “What is Terra?” I used to explain to them that it’s an EV company and we work for them. At that point in time, nobody knew about electric vehicles. I used to tell them that the EV would be more prominent in the coming years. They did not believe me at that time. Now, when I talk to them, they know Terra as a brand in India. People are still aware of our brand, despite the fact that we are now selling e-rickshaws. So, that’s the best part that I have learnt.
There are many things that I am exploring in Terra. Every day brings new things to learn, and I eagerly await more.
What is your current role in the company?
Right now, I am working as an Assistant General Manager. Your work does not end just after you hire someone. I am heading HR (Human Resource Management) right now, so we have to develop a culture.
We have always worked on a thought process where if we have to win the marketplace, we have to certainly win our workplace first. Then only will we be able to sustain ourselves in the market. If our culture is good, if we are loyal to people, if we are honest with them, then our company will run in a nicer manner. If our employees were happy, the company would definitely do well.
In our case, this was the only thing. The motivation was given by our previous management, and suddenly the good force came with Mr. Ueda, who pushed us and told us that we are human beings and not slaves. You could share all the ideas and work accordingly.
Now, we take care of people well, and they don’t want to leave Terra. Even in the pandemic times, when every company was terminating people. We gave our employees full salaries and we took care of their families. If somebody was not well, we took care of them and their work very well. This is the kind of culture we have. We are not an organisation, but a family. So, we maintain our culture like a family.
If somebody’s sad, we work for their sadness. If our employees face personal problems, we also take care of their work so that they can solve their personal problems. Then only the employee will be able to focus on the work. We keep our employees happy.
Terra Motors’ Working Culture Having Diverse Employees
What was the turning point for Terra Motors when Mr. Akihiro Ueda joined?
To be precise, our working system was different before Mr. Ueda joined. We had to come to the office on time, and whatever they said, we had to follow that. If we used to share our ideas, they used to ignore them and say no. They used to say that they knew their company better and, as they were Japanese, they knew how to run the company and we were only supposed to work as they asked. The first year felt more like slavery.
When Mr. Ueda came in, I shared everything with him about the situation of the company. I asked him how he would change this situation. Because I also had to decide about my career, if I could go ahead with this organisation or not.
He asked about our suggestions and inputs. Then we had a meeting. We gave our suggestions and ideas regarding changing the product and working according to the market. We thought about creating something better in the market. He accepted our suggestions, and one of my colleagues said, “Let’s have a factory in Kolkata.” And Mr. Ueda agreed.
This is how we came to Kolkata. And we used to sell 600 units a year, but suddenly we started selling 8000-9000 units. We are now selling 10,000 to 12,000 units every year. So, this is a big change.
Mr. Ueda guides us so well that we don’t have to use our brains sometimes. We only have to use our brains when we have to give suggestions. If he finds our suggestions logical and reasonable, he gives us a chance to execute them. He trusts us. That’s the best part about this company. Management trusts their employees.
How do the people of Terra Motors adapt to such a diverse cultural environment?
We have a very different culture. Nobody can compare Terra’s culture with that of another company. We have flexible timings in this company. We don’t have to rush to the office at 9:30 in the morning. It is not necessary to sit for the whole day. If all our tasks are finished, we can move out. There is no time limitation. So, you don’t feel like you are in prison. Management gives you flexibility to live your life. We have a work-life balance. Let’s say if I have some problems in my life, I know Terra’s family can take care of everything. They are just a call away to help and everything is taken care of well.
Conflicts happen everywhere in a family also. But we have one vision: we want to see Terra on the top. Irrespective of every conflict, we want to be on top. That is the driving force that keeps pushing us. There are a lot of language problems. Gradually, we moved into one era, and I am surprised to see that Mr. Nakagawa, Mr. Takashi, and Mr. Ueda always try to speak in Hindi and Bengali too. They have adapted to this culture, and similarly, we have adapted to their culture, and we have all accepted each other the way we are. Both the cultures are mixed together. India also has a lot of culture and, adding to that, Japanese culture has also become part of Indian culture. Moreover, we celebrate all the festivals like Durga pooja, Diwali, and Holi together.
Moreover, the Terra Group is working on an ecosystem that is good for society and for our growth as well. If I talk about my team, I am sure that they have the aim and vision to provide good to our society and to the people who are working with us. If we do good for society, we will get satisfaction as well.
So, this is the kind of culture we have, and I don’t know if Japan also has this same kind of culture, because I had a bad experience when I worked with Japanese people in the past. But with Mr. Ueda and the team right now, it feels different. It’s like working in a home. I don’t feel I am doing a good job. I feel like an entrepreneur.
Terra Motors Potential to be The Leading EV Company In The Market
What are the future steps Terra Motors must take to boost its position in the market?
Being the first employee, when I see this company listed for an IPO, it will be a dream come true. It will bring me more joy to know. That the company is actually planning to move forward with an IPO. I want Terra to be known globally. If you need a global present, you need a name. At the same time, we are doing good for society. We deserve good. We need to take one step ahead for the growth of our company. The IPO will definitely help us. If people get to know about the IPO, they will invest in our company.
Perhaps we will progress from the E-rickshaw to the four-wheeler, and we will be able to think of more ideas to improve society in terms of sustainability and ecosystem.
Why should people apply to work at Terra Motors and not at a local company?
We are a Japanese company. We are ethical. We cannot cheat people. We are known for our honesty and commitment. We practise what we preach. I have heard many times from many people that during the interview, the company promises a lot of things but never fulfils them. We are transparent with our employees. People are more aware of Terra Motors and feel like joining because Terra has become a brand in India. We don’t have to explain anymore about our company or our origin.
People know us in the market and they want to apply here because we have a good culture. We also provide job security to people; we do not terminate our employees. We feel that all five fingers are not equal. Hence, every individual has different skill sets. We provide opportunities across domains. If any employee is not comfortable in their current department, we can transfer them to another department where they can seek growth. If people work with the mindset that nobody will terminate them but they have to give their best, then they will have a zeal to work. Moreover, we also provide flexibility. Then they would not feel like leaving the organisation. We have a market presence; we are good in terms of what we do; we are good at keeping employees happy.