As far as specifications are concerned, and just specifications, I think Simple is kind of little bit better than the Ola. But then one needs to keep in mind that Simple’s specifications have been tweaked specially over the last 2-3 weeks, or 1 weeks or few minutes before the launch. I would kind of wait and watch as far as simple is concerned. Lovely set of specifications, if they can deliver on the 200 km range, if they can deliver on the acceleration figures that they have promised, I think it’s going to be an amazing scooter.
The Ola is a more functional scooter. What I liked about it is the monocoque chassis which makes the scooter light and I think weight management is very important for an electric scooter. It’s a composite panel chassis. That’s not been a very tried and tested chassis for the Indian conditions, so again we will look again how the chassis performs. European roads which is what the Etergo designed it, for are a different story, Indian roads we know are a very different story, I am assuming Ola must have done some amount of homework before they kind of decided to go in with that design.
Investments in Manufacturing
One thing that viewers should note is that both of these companies are primarily driven by VC funding and are looking for more funding. Whether it is the IPO or the VC whatever it is. One thing we need to understand is that when you are a funded company, it’s not so much about the revenue as much it is about the story and growth and so on and so forth. Bhavesh is a brilliant marketer, I will not place him in the Elon Musk territory but he is trying to get there. Simple is a little bit behind as far as story selling is concerned. I believe that when it comes to story selling Ola are much better. And when it comes to deliveries we are not sure how those stories are going to actually unfold.
Making a scooter from scratch is not a very simple process either for Simple or for OLA. Sometimes I do get a feeling they are biting a little bit more than what they can chew. I for one would have preferred going in for certain aggregates which are the important ones to make on my own. I would not want to go to the Henry Ford way. For those of you who don’t know, during the days of the 1920-30s. In the Ford River Rouge complex, the only input that used to come in, would be things like rubber and iron and then the output was the car. So everything was being made in-house by Ford and company. I think atleast Ola is trying to take that approach which I am not too sure is a sensible approach or not. I would definitely like to use a good mix of make and buy as far as scooter making is concerned.
My guess is you will have Ola deliveries starting, it's just about managing expectation. I don’t really see thousands of Ola's coming on roads very soon. You will have few hundreds coming in. Possibly, a lot of them could be just imports from Netherlands. Till that time the company will get feedback about how the scooters are running, Tinker around a little bit with the design and then be able to scale up. The factory is ready. A lot of us suspect that it is just civil engineering. There is not too much of electronics and electrical, mechanical inside still. I believe a lot of it is empty space. We have never been shown the inside of the factory at one shot. So filling that up will take time and our best wishes are for Ola and Simple for their manufacturing ventures but again I would say that they should be a bit cautious as far as investments in manufacturing are concerned because investments in manufacturing are not the same as investments in IT. Its not that you are setting up a rental company that you don’t own any assets so it doesn’t really matter. All you are doing is spending money to acquire customers. You cannot follow the same approach in the real world so its better to be a bit more cautious and see how it happens. You don’t want to get stuck with a lot of warranty failures you don’t want to get stuck with recalls because this is the road and mistakes in programming can cost lives over here. So thats what companies will need to understand who come from a software IT kind of a background.
Simple has this innovation of having a removable and a fixed pack. Now of course the good part is that these battery packs are not in parallel, you can either use one or you use the other. So that takes care of a lot of complications that can happen as far as pack level balancing is concerned. There is a danger of one pack not getting used at all. You need to understand that if you have a battery pack that is not being used for a month, 2 months you could run into trouble. Battery pack by design has to be used at least every week.
So if its going to depend on the user whether he use it or not he could end up in a problem where the fix pack is degraded totally because you forgot to charge it or whatever it is or the removable pack gets degraded because you forgotten to charge it . So that could be a problem that could become in the simple kind of design. Again till the time we get the vehicle on the road, we get our testing done we will not be able to share that. In all likelihood for simple you also need to setup a charging point because the fixed battery will require a charging point. The removable battery does not charge the fixed battery. So the charging point is a must at your parking level. So it's not like in other scooters you can remove the battery. You are only removing half the battery and going and the other half is as important. So you need to kind of take care of both the halves.
As far as the Ola battery is concerned, original design was 3 removable batteries. Now typically what happens is that each of battery packs would have to have its own BMS and when you are looking at designing for price, having 3 sets of BMS’ will jack up the price by atleast Rs.7000-8000. When you are trying to get the price to a sub 1 lakh kind of territory that could have been an issue which is why what OLA has done is put a single BMS and they didn’t want to play around too much with the design so they have retained the Banana shaped batteries and not made it removable you have problems with the BMS. I would still see if they would give an option for removable batteries for people who are ready to pay a premium, I think that is something they should have gone and thought about.
Ola Electric's Claims - Can we believe them?
Bhavesh has announced on twitter that the OLA S1 Pro sales have crossed 1100 Cr rupees in 2 days. Here is my take on this. Look at the cash flows. We know that 1 Lakh scooters have been booked and if each person is paying about Rs.20,000, the math tells me that the amount raised should have been about 200 Cr. So I guess Bhavesh is actually referring to the value of the scooters booked and the assumption is that all the folks who had booked earlier had paid up. Now that seems to be a little difficult to digest to me. One thing that worries me. You have a scooter which is sold without the test rides. How do we judge stuff like ergonomics, performance, real-life range, after-sales service by just looking at numbers in a pdf document
On the face of it OLA seems to have won the miss-universe competition already in terms of specifications but we need to go back in history and remember the TATA Nano had also got 1 lakh bookings but it still turned out to be a flop. I was talking to a few vendors of OLA the first slot of production that they have been given is very very low to the figures that Bhavesh is talking about. We will take whatever Bhavesh says with a few pinches of salt.
What is my choice?
The questions we have been asked is what would an Atul Gopal do if he were to buy a scooter, today would he go in for an OLA or Simple. I would go with OLA, simply because they have a more established product. Its a product that has been running on roads for the last few years and as far as simple is concerned I would say wait and watch
We would like to hear your stories. 1,30,000 People have gone ahead and made payments for either the OLA or Simple Energy. I hope you are one of them and if you are, then please put in your comments below and as to why you ended up choosing the OLA, why you ended up choosing Simple. Looking forward to your comments.