Standing on ground zero of Ola Electric’s upcoming FutureFactory in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, company CEO Bhavish Aggarwal leaned heavily into comparisons with Elon Musk’s Tesla. Ola wants to be the Tesla of affordable electric vehicles (EVs), Aggarwal told the media, while offering a glimpse of the product he hoped would power his company to that goal—an electric scooter.
Building a Tesla-esqe company is a lofty ambition. The US-based electric car manufacturer changed the paradigm of electric mobility when it launched the Roadster in 2008. The slick, high-performance sports car has seen Tesla grow into the world’s most valuable car manufacturer. Today, in the midst of a massive slump, its market cap still sits at a respectable US$540 billion. For perspective, the market of the next largest car manufacturer, 83-year-old Toyota, is just US$206 billion.
Aggarwal is betting heavily on replicating Tesla’s success. Ola Electric is
Inside Ola's mega factory, India's potential answer to Elon Musk's Tesla
spending Rs 2,400 crore (US$329.2 million) on the 500-acre facility. It will house an Ola-operated battery-manufacturing unit, with room left over for buildings to house around 50 hardware vendors. While excavators and earthmovers are still preparing the site for construction, Aggarwal claims the facility will be up and running by June. By this point—termed phase 1 by the company—it will have a capacity of two million scooters a year. By the same time the following year, the factory’s capacity is expected to be 10 million units annually. At its zenith, it will be the world’s largest scooter factory.
The audacious numbers being bandied about by the company’s CEO have grabbed headlines. Industry insiders and even executives who’ve worked with Aggarwal in the past, however, aren’t quite as convinced by the company’s PR blitz. “No one from the automotive space would be foolish enough to commit to building two million scooters. It’s just not possible. But that’s what Bhavish is promising,” said a former senior executive at Ola, who worked closely with Aggarwal.
The scepticism isn’t unfounded. Just over 25,000 25,000 Autocar Hero Electric retains high-speed e-two-wheeler leadership in 2020 Read more high-speed electric scooters were sold in India in 2020, and not for want of supply. Ola Electric did not respond to a detailed set of questions sent by The Ken.
Aggarwal, though, believes that scale is what will ultimately matter. “The only way we can create impact in electrification is by playing at scale. This business cannot be built by selling 2,000 vehicles a year,” he told the media.