KOCHI: The signing of expression of interest (EoI) by Toshiba Group with the Kerala government for technology transfer and manufacturing of Li-ion (Lithium-ion) batteries for electric vehicles on Thursday marks the Japanese multinational conglomerate’s second entry to the state.
The agreement was signed at the Tokyo investment seminar, organised as part of the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s visit to Japan.
Toshiba, in its earlier avatar as Toshiba-Anand, set up manufacturing facility for bulbs and batteries in Athani and Kalamassery, respectively, during early 1970s, thanks to the efforts of the then industries minister TV Thomas. CPI’s Thomas, who served as industries minister in the second E M S Namboodiripad ministry (1967-69) and in second Achutha Menon ministry (Sept 1971 to March 1977) was instrumental in attracting several companies to the state during that period.
“Though from another party, I have no hesitation in saying that T V Thomas helped Kerala attract several big investments during his tenure. Right now, we are seeing a similar surge in companies coming to Kerala for setting up units,” said trade union leader and CPM leader K Chandran Pillai.
Toshiba-Anand’s bulb division and the battery division went on till 1996, after which both the units shut shop. “The factories were closed not due to labour issues, but because the Japanese joint venture could not cope with the fast changing technological changes. Toshiba-Anand’s battery unit was later referred to BIFR (Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction),” said Pillai.
M P Joseph, who was the then labour commissioner, however, told TNIE that Toshiba-Anand had faced both labour and technology issues in Kerala. “It was long time back, but I remember there were labour as well as technology issues. Newer technologies had replaced their technologies,” Joseph said.
Toshiba’s proposed investment in Kerala to manufacture Li-ion (Lithium-ion) batteries for electric vehicles is linked to the state government’s plans to introduce one million electric vehicles by 2022.
Speaking at the Tokyo investment seminar, Toshiba India also expressed interest in supplying battery cells based on lithium titanium oxide (LTO) technology to public sector undertakings of the state government within the framework of the Electric Vehicle Policy of Kerala. The EoI, conveyed in a letter from Toshiba India MD to the industries department was released at the Kerala State Investment Promotion Seminar.
(With inputs from T’Puram)