Bhavish Aggarwal, the founder of India''s largest electric two-wheeler corporation, was quick to enter the closed entrance open, and he was fined if he had to travel three laps round the city. Now, he hopes his Ola Electric will replace Tesla and China''s BYDas, who are known for their low-cost designs.
Aggarwal''s tenacity of employees have vowed to expand, citing safety and the company''s business model, according to interviews with more than two dozen former and current employees. Supply chain problems have prompted two-wheelers to fall, with some customers saying that scooters catch on fire, have faulty batteries or accident-causing software, citing product recalls and apologies on Twitter. About three dozen senior executives from Aggarwal''s two billion-dollar corporations Ola Electric and ANI Technologies
As concerns over Ola Electric rise, Aggarwal blocked an initial public offering plan for ANI Technologies, which was last valued at $7.5 billion (roughly Rs.61,700 crore) according to research. In the end, many current and previous executives said that the company and its risk-taking founder are at a crossroads: Aggarwal might become India''s answer to Elon Musk or he might collapse under the weight of his own ambitious vision.
Aggarwal explained in an interview at Ola Electric''s swanky office in Bengaluru that he is constantly peddling the three office dogs: Happy, Husky, and Fatty. However, I do not want to choose an easier journey for myself or for Ola. My disappointment, my total displeasure.
India is already the world''s largest manufacturer of two-wheelers and largest global market. With blue-chip investors and sovereign funds looking for alternatives to China, the country''s success in developing affordable vehicles might provide a model for how developing economies can eliminate combustion engines and lower emissions without costly electric cars. In India, government subsidies and affordable labor are assisting in making electric vehicles as cheap as or cheaper than internal-combustion engines.
The most economical Tesla is $50,000 (roughly Rs. 41 lakh), which most of the world cannot afford. We''ve got the advantage to take on the EV revolution with a different set of options, priced between $1,000 (roughly Rs. 82,000) and $50,000 (roughly Rs, 41 lakh).
According to Research and Markets, India''s EV market is expected to reach $150 billion by the end of the decade, or roughly 400 times its current level. A few months after Ola''s electric two-wheeler hit the market last December, Aggarwal began tweeting teasing glimpses of the company''s car design and a new battery innovation center. He has zealously pushed to disrupt India''s tradition-bound automobile industry, which for decades has been dominated by coglomerates like Tata and
Bhavish Aggarwal, the founder of Tracxn Technologies, a Bengaluru-based firm that tracks startup, is striving for the world stage. However, after some initial success, Ola still has to cover a massive distance to make electric automobiles a mass market in India.
Aggarwal said in a Bloomberg interview that he wants to build companies with a long-term impact, even if that means rubbing some people the wrong way. India can not only make cheaper electric vehicles, but also by cultivating a worldwide footprint in 5G, green energy and sustainable mobility. Progress in achieving these goals, he said, is the norm we should judge us by.
Without sweat and tears, he said, there is no significant success.
A Quick Learner
Aggarwal started his business career more than a decade ago in ride-sharing.
After finishing an engineering degree and a stint at Microsoft Corp., he established Ola in 2010 with Ankit Bhati, a classmate at the premier Indian Institute of Technology Mumbai. The company initially provided cabs for tour groups, but soon decided to ride-hailing. At that time, most Indians relyed on decent neighborhood cab services.
Aggarwal, a fast learner with the unique ability to focus on the grass growing on the ground and the flowers at the top of the tree, according to TVG Krishnamurthy, a board member of ANI Technologies.
One Sunday, we were talking, and he asked, What would Ola''s share be in all of India''s mobility?'' Krishnamurthy recalls a decade-old conversation with Aggarwal. He started marking the percentage share on his bathroom door.
As urban Indians adopted the method for commuting or running errands, Ola''s employees encouraged to try to outsmart Silicon Valley on every front, prioritizing outreach to government officials, public relations fights, and support services for drivers.
Former employees said the startup was a great place to work at the time. Ola enlisted more than a million drivers and expanded to dozens of cities at the end of 2014. In the wake of a gruesome attack in which a driver was later convicted of raping a passenger, Ola increased its market share. The firm has grown internationally to the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
According to insiders, Ola''s division grew in 2017, as Aggarwal started exploring the capital-intensive market of making electric vehicles. While he used the Ola brand for his new venture, the business was completely separate. Bhati and nearly all early investors in ANI Technologies were not members of the company.
I thought it isn''t fair to burden others when we''re going into a very different business with capital intensity, debt profile, and capability, according to Aggarwal in a Bloomberg interview. That''s why investors were given a chance to opt-out. Whoever felt they wanted to invest has invested.
Building the Futurefactory
Aggarwal spent a lot of his time developing Ola Electric. Typically, EV companies take at least a few years to make. Aggarwal wanted to cut that timetable to compete with local competitors such as Ather Energy, based in Bengaluru, who spent several years developing a battery and several months developing quality checks on 100 initial scooters before mass-producing its design.
A much shorter schedule was devised in March 2021, when he stood on a barren stretch of land three hours outside Bengaluru, describing at a media gathering that he intends to construct a $330 million (roughly Rs. 2,700crore) two-wheeler facility with a total of ten million scooters in just a month. He planned to export the vehicles to Europe and Latin America.
The Futurefactory was opened six months later. By the end of 2021, the company''s first scooter arrived on the market.
Ola Electric''s manufacturing process utilized innovative technology, including ultrasonic friction-welding, to make hundreds of connections between cells in each battery pack. During tours of the factory, Aggarwal liked to highlight the noise-free assembly lines and robots that painted the scooters.
It took long until complaints to the public eye to pile up on social media. Aggarwal and Ola Electric'''' Twitter feeds are flooded with customers complaining about delivery delays, overheating batteries, and scooters that catch fire. When Aggarwal recently asked his Twitter followers what cool scooter accessories they wanted, one responded, using a fire extinguisher.
Employees at Ola Electric said the culture has turned hostile over the last few years. Aggarwal ripped up presentations due to a missing page number, directed Punjabi epithets at employees, and called teams useless, according to current and former employees. Executives said in interviews that meetings scheduled for an hour often lasted 10 minutes because Aggarwal would lose patience when it comes to a fine note or a crooked paper clip.
Retention was a problem, particularly at the C-suite level. Some executives, including Zilingo''s former chief financial officer Ramesh Bafna, decided not to join Ola Electric days after formally accepting employment offers. One business manager, who has since gone, described expectations at Ola Electric as having to run a marathon like Usain Bolt, the world''s greatest sprinter.
When asked about his management style, Aggarwal said, not everyone is a fit for our culture. There''s no world standard on an even, sterile workplace.
Bafna has declined to comment.
Taking on the Big Boys Club''
The boards of both companies, which are composed of SoftBank Group Corp., have expressed little interest in Aggarwal''s governance approach. However, some senior executives who have since gone raised concerns about the ethics of a share-swap transaction with a startup founded by Aggarwal''s younger brother, Ankush, who now controls Ola Electric''s financial services division.
A few months later, ANI Technologies'' valuation soared to $7.3 billion (roughly Rs. 60,000 crore) as ANI Technologies prepared for an initial public offering.
Ola did not respond to questions about the acquisition or valuation swings in the Bloomberg interview. Aggarwal did not directly address either issue, but said that his attention was placed on jealous competitors.
He claims that the incumbents in the automobile industry are the Big Boys Club. They left the door open for an upstart like me. My question back to them is, why was India not leading car electrification?''
The business difficulties at Ola Electric have become more evident in recent months. Scooter sales haven''t broken down by 35 percent in July, according to a Business Standard newspaper. By July of this year, vehicle registration data was significantly less than what the manufacturer can produce, resulting in less than 1 million reservations.
After supply chain disruptions and maintenance issues, Aggarwal said production is increasing at the Futurefactory. He pointed to Ola Electric''s unique advantages, including an end-to-end play in ride-sharing, auto retail financing, and insurance of vehicles. At a company event in mid-August, Ola Electric labeled itself India''s largest EV company, making the world''s finest electric scooter.
Aggarwal''s admirers appear to disagree that he has turbo-charged the EV market, bringing in millions of investment dollars. Despite the risks, he prefers to take the long view and pursue a lofty objective: to build millions of affordable vehicles for India and, eventually, the rest of the world.
Despite his age, we always assumed that India is a developing country. It''s our generation''s destiny to change this and now is the time. I take both the responsibility as well as the opportunity seriously.
Bloomberg''s 2022 release