Do you think Ola will be able to quickly ramp up manufacturing to service the big demand you foresee for your vehicles?
We are fully cognizant of the fact that manufacturing will have a ramp up and we believe we can do it quickly. We believe that all the pre-orders and reservations that we have taken, we will be able to serve in the next few months. As we go into it, we will face whatever comes, if it’s an electronic chip situation or something else, we’ll deal with it. We are fully committed and that’s why we are building a very large factory.
What’s the reason you picked Krishnagiri in Tamil Nadu as your base for manufacturing and do you think Ola will be able to turn it into an EV manufacturing hub?
We are absolutely going to create a hub for EVs in our area. We are building an ancillary or supplier park which is very large so many of our suppliers will set up shop in that area. We decided to locate in that area because there’s in general a good level of industrialization in Tamil Nadu and a good talent ecosystem in the state. It’s also not far from where our headquarters is, which is in Bengaluru. While we had a lot of states engaged with us, we thought Tamil Nadu has the best talent ecosystem, but going ahead, as we build our other Future Factories, we will look at all states and options.
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Is there a timeline for bringing cell manufacturing to India? What’s the scale you need to reach to justify making an investment for that?
Cell manufacturing is obviously something we’ve thought about much more deeply. It’s a core component of the vehicle and again we want to partner and create that ecosystem here in India. The government has also come up with a very encouraging PLI scheme for domestic cell manufacturing. We’re exploring all our options, and we will definitely be doing something to help accelerate domestic cell manufacturing as we’re going to be one of the largest consumers of it.
Given the shortages for semiconductors globally and all the buzz for semiconductor manufacturing in India, are you looking to try and localise that supply as well?
We’re not a semiconductor company, and we will not be manufacturing them, but we want to work with partners to help create a local ecosystem. Semiconductor (manufacturing) is a challenging ecosystem to build, but I’m seeing companies in India looking to create that. So we will definitely be partners.
Is Ola already looking at other opportunities beyond two-wheeler EVs? Has work on other platforms started already?
We’ve started work on our other programs, and we’ll tell you more about that at the right time.
You’re opposed to India reducing import duties for EVs and have said that the industry should rather focus on building locally. Do you think India’s manufacturing ecosystem is ready for that?
The biggest way we as a country can accelerate our EV journey is by building the EV technology and manufacturing ecosystem in India. A global manufacturer selling five, or 20, or 100 vehicles per year in India by importing them from outside, doesn’t help. Many people interpreted that comment (of opposing Elon Musk’s ask of the Indian government to reduce import duties on EVs from 60-100% to 40%) as we (Ola) don’t want competition. Nothing could be further from the truth. We want any kind of competition, it only makes the ecosystem better and it’s good for the consumer. So we welcome everybody, but they should produce in India, and that helps the Indian ecosystem grow.
What are some of the challenges we need to address and some of the steps we need to take as a country to grow EV manufacturing?
I think the government is doing a lot. India has the right market, the right talent for engineering, and has a decent ecosystem already for auto manufacturing. We have to now as an industry look ahead, reject petrol, and commit to electric. The industry, not just the OEMs, has to invest to produce components that EVs need. The government has provided a very nice platform for industry to leverage, and it’s now up to industry to genuinely take the mantle and invest in building the right technologies. Let’s think with a leadership mindset now to lead the world.
Globally we’re seeing manufacturers invest in EV and write off their investments in ICE manufacturing. Do you see that happening in India soon?
It’s not about us or about the existing players, it’s about technology. The technology (for EVs) is here, it is real and it will leave everybody behind. If it needs more investments, we should make more investments, because technology is the only fundamental truth of life, and it only moves in one direction – forward. I think everybody has made a lot of money from their past investments (in ICE manufacturing) and now’s the time for changing what the future will hold for this industry and for our country’s leadership in automotive manufacturing globally.