We also have seen many videos from test ride reviewers, pollution vehicle media and large YouTube channels. The OLA Electric marketing team is very clever. All the videos from pollution vehicle media and large YouTube channels were supposed to be out on Nov 11th. But then OLA electric pushed the embargo dates to Nov 15th. It was hilarious to see lots of videos by the EV community for 4 days while the media could not release their videos. I thought that was a very funny and clever strategy by OLA marketing. Feedback from real owners is more important than “review” videos by the pollution vehicle media - many of them have their own anti EV agenda and spew out FUD when it comes to EV’s.
Many of you have written to us, about why PluginIndia has not released a “review” video yet. Well, the simple answer is that we were not invited to the Ola Electric Media event. We got our hands on the OLA S1 Pro last week. We only managed to go on a 10 min ride and Atulji and Kamlesh shared their views. If you have not seen that video, the link is in the description.
Delays in Deliveries
Also OLA has delayed deliveries citing semiconductor chip supply issues. Which I feel is strange as in September Varun Dubey, CMO of Ola Electric said in an interview to CNBC and he said they are confident on the Semiconductor supplies. The semiconductor shortage is real guys. We spoke to multiple companies in the EV Industry and Integrated chips are used in controller boards, BMS. In some cases, there are tiny boards in motors too. And if these chips are in shortage, then the vendors who make the controllers and BMS and other PCB’s will face issues with production. Many EV startups we know are facing the issue and delayed deliveries are common.
Regarding OLA’s message on the semiconductor shortage, I personally feel that is just an excuse. They need time to fix their software and this seems to be the real reason. There is a lot of testing and fixing that needs to be done. Thus the delay. As long as they don’t delay further, we are okay with it. If they don’t even deliver even a single scooter by December last week, then there will be a serious erosion of trust by customers
Petrol Scooters Sucks!
While most of you who tested the OLA S1 Pro, absolutely love the scooter, there are issues like unfinished software and throttle response cutting off etc. But nevertheless, the S1 and S1 Pro has the foundation in place to be a game changer that will absolutely expose how disgustingly stupid and archaic petrol scooters are. Petrol scooters suck and as i’m recording this I just found out that Suzuki released a pollution scooter in 2021.YUCK! Shame on these traditional auto OEM’s. We call them the BIG ICE mafia. They only want you to keep paying huge money at petrol pumps or at their service centers.They won't launch EV’s because they cant make that money. Pathetic!
I feel more than the product - the electric scooter, there are larger issues regarding people and processes at Ola Electric. Here are 4 issues that the PluginIndia team has observed by interacting with the EV community. This is the feedback from the EV community to OLA’s management team.
- One way communication
This one is a biggie. Essentially the main issue here is that any communication from OLA electric is via their mobile app or via a poor email support system. This is really pissing off people. Because they can’t get answers to questions whenever they need them. Hey OLA, when you take money from your valuable customers, ensure that you have a call center with staff who are well trained in all aspects of the scooter, the finances, payments, deliveries and more. Your email support system sucks. Your customers are getting impersonal, robotic copy-paste replies to queries. People simply want to pick up a phone and talk to someone from the company. People want reassurance and comfort in the fact that the company is with them. There needs to be a personal touch. We learnt that OLA sends an email to customers, those who are ready to make the final payment and that email has a number to speak to OLA support.
What about the people who have paid Rs 20,450? Don’t they deserve to get answers? As of now, people are not getting their questions answered and this is really causing distrust of OLA electric in the community. This has to be fixed ASAP. Customers need access to a toll free number specific to the OLA Electric scooter.
- Taking money from people with no delivery estimates
The crux of this issue is the fact that OLA electric has taken the initial booking fee of Rs 450 from people all over India. We know people who have made reservations from many small towns and many of them have even made the Rs 20,000 payment. With large demand for the scooter coming from major cities, we feel OLA will focus on deliveries of the scooter in major cities first. So if you reside in a small town, you essentially have no hope of getting the scooter delivered soon. And your Rs 20,450 is stuck with OLA for many months. This again is pissing off many people in the EV Community. One EV owner told us this - “OLA electric is accepting payments from a large number of people, essentially trying to create hype with booking numbers. While the reality is that these large orders won’t be fulfilled for months to come and this makes it, an unethical business practice in my eyes”. My response to this is that we have seen this before with Tesla, when they accepted bookings of the Tesla Model 3 and they made customers wait for 3-4 years before the cars could be delivered. Heck, I know friends who paid the $1000 booking amount back in 2016 even here in India. Ultimately they cancelled and we still don’t have the Model 3 in India. While I don't think OLA customers will have to wait for 3-4 years for deliveries, my friend still raises a valid point. Just because Tesla does it, we need not follow them.
Here is what OLA electric can do. If you cannot deliver the scooter in small towns or cities even after 4-5-6 months, communicate to your customers regularly by sharing updates on what is happening at OLA. Send an email or call the customer whenever you reach a production milestone. Or whenever you set up a local service center or assemble a team in customer’s state. That way the customer will know there is progress happening locally and they won't be in the dark. Communication is the key. Why not start forums on your website moderated by a passionate team at OLA electric. This is what Ather Energy did. Their forums are thriving. And they put people on those forums that really do give a shit! They communicate and talk back. They even take design inputs from customers in those much publicized CEO - Community meetups. Learn from Ather. It’s shocking that still OLA electric does not have a well built forum on their site.
Can’t throw money at problems
Here is an interesting article at the Ken, where they talk about how there seems to be major issues with people and processes at Ola Electric. I encourage everyone to read the article. I will link it in the description. Here are some points from the article, i would want to highlight.
- "We were literally shocked when I heard about the vehicle launch because most of the software modules weren’t completely developed and tested. Lots of bugs were reported at initial testing itself, for example - The scooter has to detect the charger—whether it’s a hyper-charger or normal charger—and has to read its temperature. There are times when the scooter misreads things”
- “There are people who have not engineered the product from the testing stage. Supply chains have been asked to deliver the parts; the quality team is forced to accept rejected parts to continue with deliveries. There is a three-way tug of war, which is creating chaos.”
- "When people say a certain thing can’t be done, they are asked to leave, which again adds to the attrition, said multiple executives. The company did try to tackle the problem by increasing the salary of employees significantly. However, this made matters worse. People started lying to the top management about meeting deadlines in order to escape the sack."
- This does make for grim reading. Especially if you are a customer and are waiting for deliveries. Now we are not sure about the sources of this article. Apparently the author spoke to “past employees” and “auto journalists”. Let’s be honest these sources are not the most trustworthy as past employees will find this, as a way of getting back at the company and we all know many petrol head auto journalists have an anti EV agenda. So take this article with a pinch of salt. But at the same time, there is attrition, that is a fact. There are reports of senior people quitting Ola Electric.
My take on this is that the corporate world is filled with a lot of mercenaries. For many people the only objective is the annual salary. They jump from job to another in search of "hikes". There is no vision on what they want to do and why they are doing the work they do. Unfortunately we are seeing it here in our EV industry too. People who have no love for EV’s and despite earning good money they still drive ICE vehicles. And yes, if you work in the EV Industry. Toss those pollution vehicles. You need to drive an EV and set an example. Anyway, these mercenaries see that companies like OLA electric are well funded, which means great salaries and money in their bank account. If that is the objective of people, we will see people come and go. The good part for OLA Electric is that everyone is replaceable. As India is blessed with a large "talent pool" of corporate “hike seekers”. And OLA can hire people with good experience. So the job will be done. But unfortunately the love for the product won't be there.
The solution to this is finding people who are passionate about EV’s. Who knows you can unearth the next J B Straubel or Gwynne Shotwell or Jhonny Ive at Ola Electric. Look at the EV community and you can find passionate people for this. Join PluginIndia’s groups. They will give back more than they take, this will make Ola Electric grow faster than even Tesla. You need crazy, mad, passionate people for revolution. Not corporate “hike seekers".
Ultimately the management of OLA electric can’t keep throwing money at these people related problems. They will have to design better processes that take care of their people.
- Software! Software! Software!
OLA did not show us many promised software features during the test rides. Kamlesh spoke about this in our previous video.
Software is a huge part of a well designed EV. In the OLA S1 Pro and future OLA EV’s, there will be tight integration between software and hardware. And in order for an EV to work reliably, you need high quality software that gets the best out of the hardware.
One example is Apple. Look at the quality of their software. They keep adding New features, enhancements, operating system upgrades, performance upgrades and more. Month after month, release after release, year after year - so much software is updated on their devices and everything just works. Like magic.
Ola will need to build a team that will match Apple software standards. If there are bugs in a phone, it’s no big deal. If there are bugs in a vehicle and if they flare up while riding, it’s not a pleasant experience.
Ultimately if OLA Electric really wants to differentiate themselves from legacy automakers and eat into their market share, they need to invest in a world class software team and they should do everything they can to nurture and keep the software people happy and performing!
The coming months will be very interesting. That is for sure. We love what Ola Electric stands for and Bhavish’s vision to disrupt the petrol scooter mafia companies.
But the management will need to work on their processes that will help their people do a great job and thus release great products. We hope someone at OLA shares this to the management.
What do you guys think? Share your suggestions to OLA Management. Do write in the comments below.