India’s indegineous Tesla is under development at Tamil Nadu

Bhavish Aggarwal

He is Ola's Cofounder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal

Every Friday, Ola‘s founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal, spends time at a site that’s nearly 2 hours faraway from the hustle and bustle of his office in Koramangala, a thriving hub for startups in Bengaluru.

The 35-year-old founding father of two Indian unicorns – cab aggregator Ola and EV firm Ola Electric, rings within the weekend at a 500-acre site in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu , amidst rocky surfaces and sounds of the bottom being dug up by JCB trucks. Donning a white hard hat, a lime green vest with Ola emblazoned thereon , and construction work boots, Aggarwal walks round the site at a breakneck pace, supervising the development work and conducting reviews to make sure his ambitious plan is on target .

Ola's Factory in Tamil Nadu
Ola’s Factory Site

An aim to form the Ola FutureFactory in Krishnagiri the most important two-wheeler plant within the world, with an annual capacity of 10 million units. the ten production lines at full capacity are expected to grind out 1 scooter every 2 seconds at full capacity. it’s investing Rs 2,400 crore within the plant and can create 10,000 jobs.

In a recent interaction with a gaggle of journalists, a usually media-shy Aggarwal laid out his plans to create EVs across categories like two-wheelers, four-wheelers, why the size is crucial for fulfillment , and his combat Tesla‘s entry into India.

Ola's Electric Scooter
Ola Electric Scooter

“We are building on 500-acre land the world’s largest two-wheeler factory. When it’s fully completed next year, it’ll be 10 million units a year plant. Once we finish phase 1 in June this year, it’ll have a capacity of two million units a year. we’ll have 15 percent of the world’s manufacturing capacity. Most are working day and night to make it happen,” Aggarwal told.

When asked about what he’s basing the large demand on, Aggarwal said: “The incontrovertible fact that we’ve to convert mobility to electricity is obvious and therefore the only way electric revolution will happen is that if you build at scale. This business can’t be disrupted by selling 2,000 vehicles a year. We believe we’ve a chance to place India on the planet map. That’s the rationale why we are building a mega factory.

“The question on how we’ll find demand- this may happen if we build the proper products. Our first products are going to be a few generations before anything inbuilt the market. With products, cost, and scale, you’ll enable mass adoption,” he said.

Two pictures showing Ola's Scooter and yet to be built Factory
Ola Scooter in testing and Ola’ yet to be build factory

In terms of per-capita ownership of two-wheelers per 1,000 people, India’s numbers hover around 160 compared to Vietnam which has 600. So, India can get to 500-600, Aggarwal added

Ola Electric is depending on what Bhavish calls the “meat of the market”- affordable two-wheelers, three-wheelers, four-wheelers for everyday use, in contrast to luxury sedans and enormous pick-up trucks that global players are focussing on. It plans to leverage economies of scale by building a vertically integrated plant powered by technology, where it controls tons of the core technologies and engineering.

“We are building our own battery packs. We are building our own design, we’re designing engineering and manufacturing our own battery packs for designing, engineering, and manufacturing our own motors. And we’ll also make all the software. So it is a far more vertically integrated technology,” Aggarwal said.

Ola Scooter
Ola in Amsterdam

When asked about the apparent contrast between building a cab aggregation platform that aims to eliminate vehicle ownership with a factory which will make 10 million scooters per annum , he said people will have different mobility needs.

Ola Electric had acquired Amsterdam-based electric manufacturer Etergo in May last year, with plans to launch two-wheelers globally. It’s been running pilots to deploy electric vehicles (EVs) and charging solutions across cities.

While the corporate didn’t share details of the mileage or pricing, it said it might be competitive vs peers. While the planning bears resemblance to Etergo’s AppScooter, the scooter has been reengineered to suit Indian conditions.

Ola Charging Station
Ola Charging Station

Each scooter is going to be sold with two battery packs – each pack weighs about 10.5-11 kg, takes an hour to charge and may be plugged in reception . The scooter weighs about 100 kg, requires one battery pack to function, features a boot space which will fit 2 helmets, and has an inbuilt sim card to form calls, play music, and activate safety features.

It expects to roll out the primary batch by June. As a part of its distribution, Ola is additionally getting to build a D2C (direct-to-consumer) channel, on top of its cab-hailing app.

When asked about the competitive environment and therefore the entry of Tesla, Aggarwal said, “When an iconic company like Tesla is looking to enter India, it’ll be a huge positive for the entire ecosystem. it’ll catalyse it, from demand to suppliers to other automotive companies. it’s all the higher for companies like us and also for consumers within the end.”

Ola’s ambitious plan for the EV space comes at a time when its main cab aggregation business is seeing a revival after it had been dealt a body blow within the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. “India has been doing well. We are the most important player in India today, present in 200 cities, and have also expanded internationally, to Australia, UK, and New Zealand,” he said.

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