With its accelerator program - MAIL, Maruti Suzuki is bringing the very best startup innovations to India’s automobile industry
When the Maruti 800 first hit the roads in the 1980s, the compact hatchback revolutionized the automobile and mobility industry at that time. Even today, nearly four decades later, that small car has many memories and holds a very special place in the hearts of Indian people.
Driving mobility and automobile innovation in India
Maruti Suzuki is one of the earliest innovators in the Indian automobile industry. Right from introducing the Maruti 800, to launching dedicated True Value - one of the first attempts to make the pre-owned car sector more organized, to manufacturing and launching auto gear shift technology in cars for democratizing driving convenience, and much more. The last few decades have seen a number of pioneering innovative efforts by the company. More recently, it introduced the environment-friendly Smart Hybrid Technology in its vehicles and has been delivering an enhanced vehicle buying and ownership experience with its premium brand - NEXA.
Working together with startups to accelerate new innovations
With the growth of a strong startup ecosystem, Maruti Suzuki saw an opportunity to further enhance the culture of innovation and advancements in the mobility and automobile space. Last year, it launched Mobility and Automobile Innovation Lab (MAIL) –its corporate accelerator program which extends an opportunity for startups to do a paid Proof of Concept with Maruti Suzuki. As part of MAIL, startups showcase next-generation technology-driven, digital ideas in the field of artificial intelligence, big data analysis, computer vision and machine learning to solve various actual use cases with the company, and work with Maruti Suzuki business teams to bring these solutions to the forefront. The startups also get access to a host of benefits from the company and program partners. Most importantly, they get an opportunity for a joint Go-to-Market with Maruti Suzuki. The program enables the holistic growth of the participating startups by providing mentorship by eminent experts from Indian and international startup ecosystems as well as guidance by Maruti Suzuki domain experts.
Since its inception in Jan 2019, the startup accelerator has engaged with 18 startups through four cohorts and has successfully on boarded few startups as business partners.
Delivering a strong impact for startups
Ayush Jain, Founder, XANE AI, a computer vision startup that has developed a unique solution to make the customer experience more engaging and surreal. “Being a part of the MAIL program helped us understand and work at scale, which we had never done before. In addition, working with an industry leader like Maruti Suzuki helped us send out a message to the ecosystem at large about our capabilities to solve industry-relevant challenges, that too at scale.”
For Enmovil, a logistics technology startup, the program translated into an opportunity to get connected directly with their target customer, which in this case was Maruti Suzuki itself. “Today, we are a proud vendor for Maruti, we could not have asked for more from the MAIL program,” says Ravi Bulusu, Co-founder and CEO, Enmovil. For them, this has enabled a growth trajectory through industry recognition, validation and engagement.
For others like Sensegiz, Dave.ai - the MAIL program allowed them to deep dive into the opportunities in the automobile sector and align their solutions and value propositions accordingly.
Rashi Gupta, Founder, Rezo.ai, a conversational AI platform, says “When we got into the program, we were very excited about the opportunity to work with Maruti. But, when we got a glimpse into the overall landscape, the volume that they cater to and the possibilities it will open for us, we realised that the opportunity was enormous.”
For Sensegiz, a startup with properitory asset tracking solution, the accelerator program provided an opportunity to work with different departments at Maruti Suzuki and also interact closely with senior industry leaders. “This gave us a better understanding of what business requirements and use cases to focus our efforts on,” says Digvijay Bhatkhande, VP, Business Development & Operations, Sensegiz.
Sriram P H, founder of Dave.AI – a virtual avatar startup, shares, “With MAIL, we were able to co-create a new version of our product. The business team’s insights and commitment during the project helped us understand the industry and the business problem better. MAIL has given us an invaluable partnership that has fueled our growth.”
Yet another step towards nurturing the innovations that will define future of mobility
To further broaden the horizon of its engagement with startups, Maruti Suzuki has partnered with the N. S. Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning (NSRCEL), the startup hub and incubation centre at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB), to incubate mobility startups. Launched in August 2020, the program addresses the needs of early stage startups, which have the potential to become large-scale businesses through a three-month pre-incubation and a six- month incubation engagement. The collaboration is a first-of-its kind initiative by an automobile manufacturing company to help early-stage startups.
Under this program, early stage startups will get incubation support and a chance for potential partnership with Maruti Suzuki to fast-track the growth of their venture. Startups will get support from Maruti Suzuki’ and NSRCEL for need assessment, access to domain experts, investor connect, mentoring, guidance on regulations and demo day platform. In addition, the program will leverage IIM Bangalore’s network of faculty, students and alumni as well as the expertise and counsel of a host of partner institutions who are active in the domain.
While applications for the first cohort of the Maruti Suzuki Incubation Program have just closed, the applications for the fifth cohort of Maruti Suzuki MAIL will be opening soon. Interested startups can submit their application here.
If you are a startup working on technology-based / digitally implementable innovations with applicability in areas of – Advanced Driver Assist System, Advertisement, Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Mobility, Big Data Analysis, Blockchain, Connected Cars, Data Security, Finance, Loyalty Program, Rural, Vehicle Diagnostics, AR/VR/MR and Vehicle Safety – do explore these incubation and acceleration support programs for startups from Maruti Suzuki.