Ola Electric Mobility is barely a year old. Carved out of the ride-hailing giant Ola in 2019, Ola Electric was spun out as part of Ola’s “Mission Electric”—a self-imposed mandate to put “a million electric vehicles on the road by 2021”. 

A million is an eye-ball grabbing number. So is a billion. Ola Electric raced towards unicorn status—a valuation of $1 billion-plus—thanks to a $250 million shot in the arm by SoftBank. An undisclosed investment in 2019 by steel-to-hotel magnate Ratan Tata took Ola Electric over the gilded unicorn finish line.

The company’s ample fundraising rounds were also accompanied by an almost 200% growth in hiring, drawn from the ranks of traditional automotive companies like Tata, Mahindra, Hero, and Piaggio. But there has been little to no clarity on what Ola Electric will actually do. 

Right up till now.

According to information sourced by The Ken, Ola Electric’s plan to get to a million EVs is by designing and creating its own electric three-wheeler auto, and lithium-ion (li-ion) batteries. 

“That way, we control the whole EV supply chain,” says an Ola Electric employee, who wished not to be named as he isn’t authorised to speak to the media. The aim, says the employee, is to quickly create a formidable ecosystem by leveraging Ola’s current scale as the largest ride-hailing service in India. 

Ola has already tied up with engineering major Bosch to design and manufacture the li-ion batteries, and is negotiating with other component manufacturers for the electric auto. As a senior industry executive told The Ken, Ola Electric has set up an internal committee to invite bids from potential component partners. 

Designing an auto—and its batteries—from scratch is a bold move, one totally unprecedented in India’s nascent EV sector. Companies usually stick to their knitting. They’re either manufacturers like Hero, Ather and Bajaj; battery-makers like Bosch and Panasonic; or service providers like ABB and SUN Mobility, who’ve set up charging and battery swapping stations. 

From scratch

“Through our earlier pilots, we realised that we’ll have to specially design a vehicle for shared mobility usage. And it has to be priced reasonably,” says a researcher with Ola Electric. There is currently no scaled-up electric auto service in India

Ola Electric, though, wants to do away with these distinctions.

“Ola wants to own the whole electric ecosystem, from vehicle to battery. In the future, we want other players to source from us,” says the employee mentioned above. 

In the long run, Ola wants to disrupt the shared mobility market. With a fit-for-purpose auto, a self-designed battery, a pan-India presence in 125 cities, and almost 200 million riders on its platform every day, it is arguably in a sweet spot to do so. 


Olina Banerji

Based in Delhi, Olina writes about mega-trends in urban mobility, education, skilling and the environment, with a focus on how institutions and innovations can help cities grow sustainably. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics, and has worked previously with India Today and global non-profit Ashoka.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 60+ new stories with 3-months worth of archives from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 1,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Quarterly Subscription

3-month access to 35+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 50


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at support@the-ken.com detailing the error or queries.