Ola Electric’s CEO Bhavish Aggarwal keeps making waves in the industry with new revelations following the launch of the company’s highly anticipated S1 and S1 Pro high-speed electric scooters.
Barely a week ago he announced that the electric scooters would be exported to the US much sooner than anticipated, starting early next year.
Now he has revealed a major new twist in the Indian company’s electric scooter rollout: that the scooters will be built entirely by women.
The news came in the form of a blog post by Aggarwal where he laid out the plan, which includes employing around 10,000 women to work in the gigantic electric scooter factory.
The Futurefactory has an initial planned production capacity of 2 million electric scooters per year, but is planned to eventually reach an annual rate of 10 million electric scooters. Ola expects to supply 15% of the world’s electric scooters by next year, and the scooters will be built by an entirely female workforce, including female managers.
The move to employ only women at the factory is part of an inclusivity initiative that has a special significance in India.
As Aggarwal explained:
Today, I am proud to announce that Ola Futurefactory will be run entirely by women. We welcomed the first batch this week and at full capacity, Futurefactory will employ over 10,000 women, making it the world’s largest women-only factory and the only all-women automotive manufacturing facility globally.
This is the first in a series of initiatives we are undertaking at Ola to create a more inclusive workforce and provide economic opportunities for women across the board.
We have invested significantly to train and upskill them in core manufacturing skills and they will be responsible for the entire production of every vehicle manufactured at Ola Futurefactory.
Enabling women with economic opportunities improves not just their lives but that of their families and indeed the whole community. In fact, studies show that just providing women parity in the labor workforce can grow India’s GDP by 27%.
But this requires active and conscious efforts from all of us, especially in manufacturing where participation remains the lowest at just 12%. For India to be the world’s manufacturing hub, we must prioritize upskilling and generating employment for our women workforce.
Ola’s high-tech electric scooters were planned to begin sales last week, though a technical glitch in the company’s massive rollout delayed initial sales to later this week.
The Ola S1 and S1 Pro electric scooters have turned heads in the industry not just for their high-tech design, but also for their affordable prices. The scooters were announced to start at between US $1,050-$1,350 when they were unveiled in India last month.
Of course those figures won’t translate into the exported sticker price, but the scooters are still expected to be reasonably priced by Western standards when they reach US shores next year.
While the idea of “men need not apply” might sound strange to a Western audience, a bit of background on India may help.
India has a dramatically lower female employment rate compared to many of its neighbors and certainly compared to the West. Some figures estimate that women in India make up just 15% of labor participation.
A major factor in this underemployment of women is rooted in traditional conservative views held by much of Indian society that a woman belongs in the home to look after the children.
But progressives are working to change this perception in society, and Ola’s Futurefactory is a particularly large example of a push to educate, train, and employ more women in the work force.
A friend of mine lives near Mumbai and operates a factory that he built himself. For years now he has employed only local women in the factory. As he explained it to me, the women come from nearby villages and it is nearly impossible for them to find work. He trains them and gives them an opportunity for employment, where they have excelled and been able to provide additional financial support to their families.
As a Western male, I can’t claim to understand the complexity of India’s socioeconomic intricacies and their effects on women. But I believe we can all recognize that more companies like Ola making a push toward inclusivity in the workplace will play a major role in providing more opportunities for the disadvantaged to succeed.
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