There can be no disruption without scale. That is the central belief with which Bhavish Aggarwal, the 35-year-old entrepreneur who entered the ride-hailing business a decade ago with Ola, has stormed into the electric scooter industry.
Aggarwal’s Ola Electric will soon roll out electric scooters from its massive “Future Factory”, the world’s largest two-wheeler facility, in Tamil Nadu, a move that promises to shake up the e-scooter market in India. Consider some figures: At its full capacity of 10 million scooters, Ola Electric’s facility will manufacture as much as 15% of the world’s total two-wheeler production. About 30%-40% of the production will be earmarked for exports.
Clearly, Aggarwal’s aim is to play bold and big, and change the dynamics of the market. Ola Electric believes the time is ripe for a serious disruption, since India has not seen any major innovation in scooters. With its sprawling 500-acre facility which will also house suppliers, the company believes it will make big gains from economies of scale and, consequently, attract consumers with an aggressive pricing strategy. Eventually Ola will also make electric four-wheelers. Ola’s entry in the e-scooter market is bound to get the existing players—from Hero Electric to relative newcomers like Ather Energy—to take note. Alongside, legacy giants like Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor will also have to examine their own strategies to take on this aggressive new player. Ola thinks like a consumer Internet company, and hence technology-driven solutions to urban mobility lie at the heart of its strategies, both for ride-hailing and now in e-scooters.
With the government pushing the adoption of electric vehicles in a big way, and state governments joining in with their own initiatives, the stage is set for a most interesting battle for supremacy in the e-scooter space. While legacy players have investments locked into traditional scooter models, and may take time to scale up their electric play, Bajaj Auto has already taken the plunge by resurrecting its iconic Chetak scooter in an electric avatar. Sensing that the time may be right for upping the ante, existing players like Hero Electric and Ather (where traditional giant Hero MotoCorp has a sizeable stake) are also investing in increasing their capacities. Once Ola rolls out its scooters, the market will witness an engaging tussle which can only be good news for consumers, and will hopefully accelerate the shift to electric vehicles.
Meanwhile, it’s been over a year since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a pandemic. In this issue, we take stock of how the world has changed since then, and how some sectors have rolled out new ways to adapt to the new normal. Whether it is the healthcare sector, hotels, or real estate, nothing will ever be the same again. There are, of course, several leadership lessons which the pandemic has taught us, and companies big and small are taking those on board as they navigate the changing world.
But even amidst the severe challenges the pandemic has posed, there is enough entrepreneurial energy to be celebrated. As many as 11 startups turned unicorns during the past months, demonstrating that investors will always continue to seek out interesting ventures and ideas. The spirit of enterprise will continue to win, no matter what.
(This column appears in the April 2021 issue of Fortune India).