Will Ola Electric galvanize India's EV movement like how Tesla did worldwide?
Ola Electric may not be regarded as pioneers of Indian electric vehicle movement and at first glance, comparisons to global EV leader Tesla may seem rather far fetched. Yet, there is no denying that in the last week or so, Ola Electric has generated a humongous buzz around its upcoming - and first - electric scooter. Now raring for an official launch, Ola Electric received one lakh orders for its electric scooter within 24 hours of the booking window being opened.
Rivals are sitting up and taking note. Much like how Tesla's rise resulted in - and continues to - get competitors to constantly up their game, several companies manufacturing electric scooters in India have started announcing a gamut of initiatives and investments in recent days. Is it the Ola effect?
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Many believe why Ola Electric's bookings' invite for its debut product has been as successful as it has been is because of the 'paltry' amount of ₹499 to book a unit. At less than the cost of a medium-sized pizza, the amount is also refundable. Rewind a little less than two years ago when Tesla showcased its Cybertruck and opened booking windows. The EV giant started taking deposits of just $100 (approximately ₹7,400 at current exchange rate) for an EV touted as a capable pick-up with the performance of a sportscar. Bookings may not always translate to sales but it still stands as a strong sign.
Ola is also backing its electric scooter to have class-leading acceleration, largest-in-class storage space, high top speed, among other highlights.
It is also being speculated that the Ola electric scooter could be priced between ₹80,000 and ₹1 lakh. If true at launch, it could be one of the most affordable electric scooter options in the country. And affordability is crucial as has been seen with the success that Model 3 - Tesla's cheapest EV currently - has had.
There are also reports that Ola may follow a direct-to-home sales system and not rely on a dedicated dealership network. While HT Auto cannot confirm this, if true, it could well be similar to how Tesla goes about its business of having no private dealership network and itself owning the supply and delivery chains. It also helps Tesla that CEO Elon Musk has a massive fan following on social media. Ola Electric CEO Bhavish Aggarwal too has been using his Twitter account to share photos and videos of his company's upcoming product.
Then there is the big question about scalability. Ola's under-construction mega facility in Tamil Nadu is nearly ready to initially roll out two million units each year. The figure will be 10 million per annum in the times to come. Called FutureFactory, it will also serve as base for exports to foreign markets.
Tesla's Gigafactory units across the world are known for being massive - both in terms of area as well as capabilities. Its main facility in California has a capacity to drive out half a million EVs each year. The Shanghai facility too has been designed to have a similar roll out capability. Tesla delivered 201,250 vehicles in the first quarter of the year, a record, and is now looking to scale up even more. Scalability, therefore, is a massive bragging point - especially when it comes to the world of EVs.
So while it may seem rather outlandish to compare Ola Electric with Tesla, the point is that there are similarities in ambitions and business model and scale that just cannot be written off. Will Ola Electric be the giant of electric scooter space in India just as Tesla is in the world of electric cars? Guesses are fine but solid verdicts may be a bit premature currently.