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What is stopping Tesla from entering India?

By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tesla’s India journey is still stuck at the start line.

Last February, co-founder and CEO Elon Musk had said Tesla’s cars could possibly be cruising down Indian roads as early as summer 2017. A year on, the cars have still not debuted in the country. In a May 30 tweet, he said “challenging government regulations” were to blame for the delay.

Before entering the country, he’s waiting on the green light from his India-born chief financial officer, Deepak Ahuja, Musk said. Ahuja, a close confidant of Musk, was the one who saved Tesla from near bankruptcy nearly a decade ago.

While many prominent Indians have shown a keen interest in Tesla’s vehicles, the firm is yet to take concrete steps to foray into the Indian market.

Last May, Musk had taken to Twitter to announce that his India plans had been derailed by the country’s Make in India push, which requires foreign companies to source at least 30% of their products locally. “…the supply doesn’t yet exist in India to support that,” he wrote.

A month on, Musk said Tesla was seeking temporary relief from import duties in India, presumably to start selling in the country sooner and with an affordable price tag. Although, at the time, the official Make In India Twitter account clarified that only foreign retailers—not manufacturers—were subject to the local-sourcing clause, there was still no word on Tesla’s entry in the country.

Many of Tesla’s other India plans, too, are stuck. In October 2015, it had announced plans of opening a “gigafactory” to mass-produce lithium-ion batteries—known for their efficiency in recharging and storing energy—in India. But now it seems to have turned its attention to China instead.

The Palo Alto-based manufacturer had also planned to install a cross-country network of superchargers in India, not just for itself but for the entire burgeoning electric vehicle ecosystem in the country. That network still seems to be only at the drawing-board stage. The carmaker hasn’t yet established a foothold with dealerships and service centres either.

If and when it overcomes all the speed bumps on its way to India, its signature self-driving feature will have to battle poor infrastructuredeplorable driving skills, and swarms of reckless pedestrians.