Russell Goldsmith
Russell Goldsmith 25 November 2020

Podcast - Interview With Avinash Rugoobur, President & Chief Strategy Officer of Arrival

Part of our special series of episodes that we're recording in partnership with the European PR Agency Tyto and their Own Without Borders podcast, this interview is with Avinash Rugoobur, President & Chief Strategy Officer of Arrival.

Avinash Rugoobur, President & Chief Strategy Officer of Arrival, joined Russell Goldsmith and Brendon Craigie online to record an interview for the csuite podcast’s special series on unicorn companies, being recorded in partnership with the European PR agency, Tyto.

Arrival, one of Europe’s most valuable Unicorns, is focused on reimagining the entire electric vehicle production process and reached Unicorn status at the start of 2020. Arrival have been able to vertically integrate the key technologies and components of the vehicle, then allow their products to be designed and built from the ground up using micro factories which are low footprint, low capex production facilities that can be placed anywhere around the world. 

They are decentralising what has been a very centralized process. Avinash explained that Arrival gained investment from Hyundai and Kia earlier this year, which was one of the largest investments in Britain's car industry since Brexit. 

Arrival have had a strategic partnership with UPS, an order of 10,000 vehicles, with the option to order more. Avinash explained they believe the bus and van that Arrival have unveiled help capture a clear market opportunity. They believe electric vans will capture a two million addressable market by 2025 and the bus over 100,000 units by 2025 as well. 

Whist reaching unicorn status for Arrival is a great milestone, it's only a step in a journey, Avinash said the journey is about getting products out there and helping to improve cities and communities. Arrival’s partners all have similar goals, to develop mobility solutions and sustainable services and electrify their fleet.

The ambitions are shared and so those investments are strategic partnerships. UPS bring the product itself to the table, which undergoes continuous development, and this is unique to the industry. Avinash explained that UPS don't just create a product and tell them to get it, they come in and work with Arrival. Arrival design the materials, a proprietary material, which is sustainable and recyclable. 

Arrival uses micro factories, which allows them to deploy the production facility in local communities. The aim isn't just for electric delivery vehicles, but it's about creating a transportation ecosystem that can serve all needs of the community. One of the first conversations Arrival have with cities and governments is, ‘what are your biggest pain points?’ A lot of focus is on public transportation. The shift to sustainable transport is really important to governments, the communities and transport authorities.

An advantage of micro factories is, they can be put anywhere and bring the technologies and products to local communities. Avinash said that an advantage of creating the products in local communities, is you're using the local talent to build a product; you're paying the local taxes. You're able to use local engineering teams and support teams already there, you can produce vehicles for that local community and because the CapEx and the OpEx of the micro factories are significantly lower, there is approximately an 11 times smaller footprint, about half the cost and six times shorter commissioning time.

Avinash explained that Arrival will not achieve the goal of sustainable transportation unless the whole world is able to shift to electric. So, firstly, Arrival has to bring the costs down and make them price parity with the diesel or fossil fuel equivalents.

Secondly, the benefits of the total cost of ownership - this could be in reduced servicing and create a longer life of the vehicle, because you can, especially with Arrival vehicles, swap in and out the components so the same asset can last longer.

However, Arrival has to consider the barrier of cities which have unstable electricity, which can make it difficult to upgrade the grid.

In terms of the impact of covid-19 to the business, Avinash said that on the customer and demand side, it's only increased. Delivery has been the only way a lot of us have been able to get goods and services recently, which has driven more need for adoption of sustainable delivery vehicles and electrification of those.  He added that Arrival has been lucky - they haven't had to lay off any staff, but they did have to change the way the business works overnight. He believes that Arrival has come out of that exceptionally well, given how difficult it is for many. 

Avinash explained that being aware of different cultures as Arrival expands globally is something that's critically important to them. Especially now they are distributing micro factories around the world, it is a key part of their business.  They need to make sure they understand the local communities and their needs and communicate across offices.

Arrival takes time to get involved, hire local people and really understand the nuance and culture of what's going to be needed in that environment. To Arrival, having a diverse team is important, everybody has different thoughts, beliefs and approaches to solving problems.

Employees at Arrival have a common goal, many believe in zero emission transportation and that sustainable technologies should be distributed assembly with local talent and products. 

During Covid, it’s harder to keep that culture and working from home is probably one of the hardest things to work around when missing those informal communications that often happen. Arrival have their own internal messaging tool and have encouraged people to use this or join on a phone call, it doesn't have to be formal. 

Avinash added that they have regular meetings where people can ask the founder any questions they want. He said it’s really important to get the whole team to come together, to say what's important and what's happening in the business, but also keep that vision as the fire behind what everybody is there for.

Covid has shown that there's no barrier to geography for working in any location. Avinash explained that they may miss something in terms of the informal types of communications, but it has now opened the opportunity of being able to view people who want to join Arrival anywhere around the world.

Arrival hase shown they have been able to run the business for six months and still hit goals during this time. So, if somebody is applying from a remote location to join Arrival and they fit the team, then why not?

In terms of learning from his past, Avinash explained that being very up front is something that can be uncomfortable sometimes, but you've got to work your way through it. You've got to learn and you're going to make mistakes, you have to keep trying to get better at it each time you do it. 

Get out there, get the mentors, go get stuck into things that you don't like, spend your time on those things because the stuff you like, you'll get good at, you'll do every day, but stuff you don't like can be left in the corner too long and then when you really need that skill, it's not there. 

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