Bhavish Aggarwal, the rider CEO, and Ola scooters vs. Ola cabs

Ola co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal did something interesting recently.

He took a test ride of Ola’s soon-to-be-launched electric scooter.

Here is the video that he shared.

That brings me to two different threads of thought:

  1. Bhavish posing as a user of his own company’s product
  2. One product of Ola competing with another product of Ola

  1. Bhavish posing as a user of his own company’s product

Now, why would this be interesting?

After all, don’t founders act as their own company’s brand ambassadors? Mahashay Dharampal Gulati, who passed away late last year, is perhaps a great example from India – he adorned most of MDH Masala packs (I say most because it seems his face was not on those product packs that were meant for non-vegetarian cooking! Only vegetarian masala packs have his face!) and even showed up in the TV ads.

But Bhavish was not just the face of the video – he was also the user of the product (albeit within the ambit of a test ride).

Don’t founders use their own company’s products? I’m sure they all do, where applicable. I’m reasonably sure Sachin Bansal may prefer ordering on Flipkart instead of Amazon (or, used to when he was the CEO). Or Vijay Shekhar Sharma would prefer to pay by Paytm app while shopping offline, obviously.

But a scooter is a slightly different thing.

Bhavish, with all his money (Unicorn, after all), may not fit the profile of a user of a scooter rider. If he’s not using his own super-premium car, he may be using Ola Prime SUV at the very least.

To some extent, Bhavish posing as a scooter rider seems like Shah Rukh Khan being featured in an advertisement Hyundai Santro. You know that the person has been roped in for face value and not from a users’ point of view.

But Bhavish has a stronger stake in the product’s communication by nature of him being the company’s co-founder and CEO. From that perspective, as against an unknown model riding the bike in the video, Bhavish doing it himself lends a relatable human’ness to the communication, despite the unlikelihood of a CEO doing so.

Not only does Bhavish ride it across town, but also parks it, has coffee at a place, and interacts with curious people, explaining something about the product, though the guy to Bhavish’s left—from our viewpoint—is seen nodding his head a bit too vigorously to seem natural 🙂

That you can place and recognize the person makes it a good PR tactic (though recognition for Bhavish is more likely to be among Bangaloreans and the media/tech folks, not the average Bajaj scooter buyer, but this is ok).

Then, there’s the angle of ‘if the CEO himself finds it worthy of a ride, a common person like me should find it pretty darn good’.

I doubt if Bhavish will remain the product’s face when the scooter is launched. It’s more likely that Ola may rope in a better-known celebrity as the face. I’d think Rahul Dravid would be a good face – he is from Bengaluru, can be instantly recognized, stands for credibility, and could do with some face-saving communication on the back of his CRED sojourn that showed him in a light that broke his hard-earned public personality as an affable, decent human being.

But, as a pre-launch PR tactic to build buzz, Bhavish taking on the role of a ride-user is quite smart, I felt.

  1. One product of Ola competing with another product of Ola

The Ola Scooters may compete not just with other electric scooters from brands like Ather or Bajaj, not just with other brands of 2-wheelers and smaller cars, but also with other forms of mobility including ride-hailing companies like Ola and Uber! After all, Ola’s plan is to make vehicles every 2 seconds and keep the product cost low by playing on scale!

Both the scooters and cabs are basically about personal mobility and they take different routes towards that common goal.

To some extent, the equivalent I can think of is Amul selling cows, besides milk. Users can milk their own cows at home, or have the choice to buy packaged milk. The former takes some effort and maintenance, but you will be self-sufficient, while in the latter, you are dependent on a largely dependable process and system.

Or, consider Britannia selling a bread maker (hypothetically/imaginary). You can buy your own ingredients and make your own bread at home, or order from Britannia whenever you need bread. The former demands that you buy the raw materials and spend some time and effort, but you will be truly on your own, without outside dependence. The latter is convenient too, given Britannia’s huge distribution muscle.

In both cases, Amul and Britannia would be expecting you to pay a larger sum upfront to buy the product compared to selling the output of that product in smaller, daily, cheaper quantities. But the common pitch is access to milk or bread.

I reckon Ola may not brand the scooters using the ‘Ola’ brand for this reason, though the Ola brand is probably also the best choice given the wide recognition of that brand name as a form of mobility. But since both forms of mobility are very different from each other, my guess would be the former – a different brand name with a much smaller focus on Ola, if at all.



1 thought on “Bhavish Aggarwal, the rider CEO, and Ola scooters vs. Ola cabs

  1. A comprehensive and critical analysis indeed.
    I have noticed this patterns of CEO/ founders taking part in commercial ( ref. To the Zomato Founder apprearing in TV enforcing that Zomato is Ordering food is safe to The Ola Electric ad mentioned).
    From an advertisement point of view, is this primarily focused for the trust factor?.
    But like you mentioned, a CEO using an electric scooter in daily life is not quite Logical.
    What is your take on this shift?. Do you think it has a long term benefit?.

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