When Bhavish Aggarwal stormed into the scene with his idea of a disruptive ride-hailing service for India—Ola Cabs—over a decade ago, he was celebrated as one of the poster boys of India’s growing start-up ecosystem. Over the years, Aggarwal’s stature grew as his ride-hailing service took on global giant Uber, and lived to tell the tale, continuing to give it a tough fight. So when, in February 2021, Aggarwal began building the world’s largest two-wheeler factory under his company Ola Electric, all eyes were on him once again. Would Aggarwal, by now a star entrepreneur, disrupt the two-wheeler market this time with his electric scooter as he did with Ola Cabs? The two-wheeler market, dominated by big boys like Hero MotoCorp and Bajaj Auto, was a very different game. Then there were other existing e-scooter players like Okinawa, Hero Electric and Ather Energy (where Hero MotoCorp has a substantial stake). But typical of him, Aggarwal made it clear that his company would not just disrupt the e-scooter market, he would rewrite the rules of the scooter industry as a whole.
Cut to June 2022: Ola Electric, at last count, was at No. 1 in cumulative e-scooter sales in FY23 (April and May), and at No. 3 cumulatively since January 2022. But in getting there, Aggarwal has faced a series of challenges, making his ride to the top three very, very rough. From technical glitches to customer complaints to top-level exits, Ola Electric has been beset by problems ever since production at its sprawling factory in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu, got under way. Battered on social media and questioned by customers on inordinate delays in deliveries, Aggarwal has been battling it all. But true to his pugnacious nature, he tells us: “The ride will always remain rough when you want to win in a big boys’ game, and that’s exactly what we’ve set out to do.” In our cover story this time, Prerna Lidhoo gets you the story of Aggarwal’s ambition, his grand vision for the mobility sector, and the rocky ride he’s been having since he launched his e-scooter. As Aggarwal looks to build an electric car next, the Ola story will always be one to watch.
In this issue, Manish Pant and Arnab Dutta also get you a ground report on how the upcoming mega international airport in Jewar, Uttar Pradesh, is leading to a whole new development momentum, with the potential of making the northern region a major aviation hub. Meanwhile, as India Inc. gets aggressive on buyouts, Krishna Gopalan examines what is driving this wave of mergers and acquisitions, and how this M&A wave is different from those in the past. And as the pandemic recedes, the Swiss mountain resort of Davos was once again the epicentre of debate and discussions on the world economy, its future, and the challenges the world faces. Business Today TV’s Managing Editor Siddharth Zarabi brings you a first-hand account of all the goings-on at Davos where India took centre stage. Do read that excellent round-up.
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