Ola aspires to pull off a Tesla, but affordably
- The Bengaluru-based firm plans to start production as early as in June. That’s audacious, given that the land—260 acres for the plant and 240 acres for two supplier parks—is still in excavation mode.
On around 500 acres of land in Tamil Nadu’s Krishnagiri district, Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. Ltd is building what it calls a ‘Future Factory’. When ready, it will produce 10 million e-scooters every year, making it the largest two-wheeler maker globally.
The Bengaluru-based firm plans to start production as early as in June. That’s audacious, given that the land—260 acres for the plant and 240 acres for two supplier parks—is still in excavation mode. The first phase will produce 2 million e-scooters, to be retailed in India and exported. To put the scale in context, market leader Hero MotoCorp produced 6.5 million two-wheelers annually. And 22-25 million two-wheelers with internal combustion engines are sold in India every year.
SoftBank-backed unicorn Ola Electric, which was set up in 2017, is the electric vehicle (EV) arm of transportation platform Ola (ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd). Its project has taken off at a time when Elon Musk-led Tesla Inc. is set to make its India entry and the government is trying to boost manufacturing of EVs, their batteries and other components.
As Ola transitions from ride-hailing fleet management to manufacturing and retailing of EVs, chairman and group CEO Bhavish Aggarwal is clear that he is building an engineering and technology firm—a full-stack makers of electric two-wheelers. While Ola Electric will start with scooters, it will also build separate plants for motorcycles and four-wheelers.
“Most companies building EVs in India are not at scale. We are building products that consumers will aspire for and will be built on principles of sustainability, automation and efficiency. The concept is of a mega factory, which will be the world’s largest two-wheeler factory, not just in electric,” Aggarwal said in an hour-long presentation at Ola’s Krishnagiri site on Friday.
The integrated manufacturing plant will have 10 assembly lines, 3,000 robots and around 10,000 workers. Each e-scooter will have two removable batteries and the company is building a charging network.
Last May, Ola Electric acquired Amsterdam-based electric scooter startup Etergo BV. Last year, Ola hired former General Motors veteran Jose Pinheiro as head of global manufacturing and operations and Julien Geffard as director of go-to-market strategy to lead its European operations for its electric business. The appointments came after a number of senior-level exits at Ola Electric.
While Ola didn’t disclose the price of e-scooters, it said they will be priced competitively and will be affordable. Earlier reports had suggested that the e-scooters will be priced below ₹1 lakh.
The success of its electric business is crucial for Ola, whose core ride-hailing business was significantly impacted due to the pandemic.