Last week, on the foothills of the ancient hill fortress of Nandi Hills, about 60 km north of Bengaluru, Ola Electric hosted an invite-only event for journalists to test-ride what it claims is the best scooter ever made. 

Colourful, shiny, and sleek Ola S1 scooters brightened up a cold and damp November evening as The Ken arrived at the venue, uninvited. It was the first time the electric two-wheeler maker was allowing anyone to test-ride the scooters. 

Ola Electric, whose parent company ANI Technologies also owns ride-hailing major Ola Cabs, has generated a lot of buzz around its scooters this year. The company aims to manufacture 10 million scooters annually by 2022 at the world’s largest two-wheeler plant, the Ola Futurefactory. It already claims to have sold scooters worth Rs 600 crore ($80 million) in a single day—almost four orders per second—during its first purchase window in September. 

On 30 September, a mere month and a half removed from opening pre-bookings for the S1, Ola Electric raised raised livemint https://www.livemint.com/companies/news/softbank-leads-ola-electric-s-200-mn-funding-round-valued-at-3-bn-11633005908147.html Read more  over $200 million in a funding round led by prominent investors SoftBank and Falcon Edge. The fundraise valued the company at $3 billion.

However, three months since pre-bookings began, customers still haven’t received their vehicles. From an initial deadline of October, Ola Electric says the deliveries will begin “soon”. The second purchase window has also been pushed to mid-December from 1 November.

While delays are common in the automotive industry, Ola’s scooter has hit its fair share of speed bumps, from software to hardware. This was evident at the test-ride event. In one instance, The Ken observed Ola Electric’s chief marketing officer Varun Dubey struggle with the navigation feature on the scooter’s touchscreen.

While the journalists who got to test the scooters (The Ken was denied a test ride despite multiple requests) raved about the design, price, and performance, they too encountered glitches. One of the journalists claimed their scooter went in reverse despite not being set in reverse mode. The auto journalists also said they weren’t given enough time with the scooter to test its range. Range anxiety is one of the biggest impediments to electric vehicle adoption.

Dubey sought to quell concerns, telling The Ken that the current software the scooter is running is a beta version. He added that all these minor glitches will be ironed out soon through over-the-air updates. Dubey also said that the company is on track to begin deliveries as soon as customers make the final payment, which can be done once the test rides are done.

AUTHOR

Pranav Balakrishnan

Pranav writes about the business of moving people and things around, i.e, mobility and e-commerce. Over the past two years, he has written about Ola, Tesla, Flipkart, Amazon, and the increasing role played by Reliance Industries in the Indian technology story. Pranav joined The Ken from Asian College of Journalism, Chennai, specialising in business journalism.

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