What do a 51-year-old IT professional from Delhi, a 27-year-old business owner from Coimbatore, and a 40-year-old doctor from Patiala have in common? They all moonlight as problem solvers on social media communities for electric vehicle (EV) users.
In 2023, the country witnessed widespread EV adoption. EV penetration in the country recorded robust growth in 2023. EV sales grew almost 50% in the calendar year. Retail sales data reveals that a total of 3.45 million EVs have been sold in India since 2014, and in the last year, over 15 lakh EVs were sold. The country is the fastest-growing EV market in the world driven primarily by users, though several players along with a policy push have provided the much-needed momentum for wider adoption of EVs.
And with it sprang groups on various social media platforms that are helping consumers get used to the new technology. Company manuals are not always able to overcome language barriers to provide vehicle owners with the kind of help they need. These groups, often run by more experienced users, are filling that void by offering technical knowledge and sometimes becoming the bridge between EV owners and management of companies manufacturing EVs.
These social media groups are providing faster access to information and have become lifesavers for EV owners, as servicing centres are overwhelmed and unresponsive. New users generally need help with charging, mileage, and know-how on the care of an EV, be it a car or a two-wheeler. Most often, sales and service staff are themselves ill-equipped to help. To address this gap, more experienced users have stepped in, forming groups on WhatsApp and Telegram, and pages on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) to address issues, bust myths, and build confidence in new users.
Most of the people running these groups have day jobs or are students and have made this their passion project, often referring to others in the community as colleagues, friends, or ‘brothers’. The administrators (admins) of these social media groups this reporter spoke to were all deeply passionate about EVs themselves and had only one aim – to make the transition smoother for others. Many have managed to establish contact with manufacturers and act as a bridge for users facing issues and overwhelmed service centres.
“I’ll do anything for Atherites,” 27-year-old Arun, based in Coimbatore, who founded the ‘Ather Owners Coimbatore’ community in 2022, told The Core. “I’ve helped 600-700 users in the last two years…if you own Ather, I’ll do what I can to help you,” he said.
How It All Started
Inspired by several authorised Tesla clubs that grew across the world, 23-year-old Nikhil Chaudhary from Haryana, currently pursuing his Master's in Science, started the Tesla Club India with his friend Arun Bhat in 2019, as they had expected that Tesla would launch operations in India soon. The company has authorised owners of clubs in the US, Canada, and countries across Europe and the Asia Pacific. “Club members help advocate for Tesla by supporting legislative efforts, offering test drives, volunteering at shows, educating new and prospective owners, hosting social events, and passionately referring friends and family to explore Tesla ownership for themselves,” the company’s website reads.
“We thought maybe they will come here…basically we wanted to have a platform where all the information can be [shared],” Chaudhary said. Tesla Club India has a page on X, as well as a Telegram channel, and isn’t limited to Tesla – “we cover everything from two-wheelers, three-wheelers, luxury EVs, trucks, buses, everything green energy…we share that information with people and answer the questions the best we can,” he said. While it was first followed mainly by western Tesla fans, it blew up over the years and has a robust following of Indian EV users now.
Others have had more domestic inspirations and origins. Vivek Ahuja, 51, purchased his first EV in 2020 – a Tata Nexon EV. But before that, he had been following Plugin India, the country’s oldest EV owners community since 2015. Plugin India, which currently has 182 thousand subscribers on its YouTube channel and pages on X and Discord, was started in 2013.
Back in 2015, Mahindra and Mahindra’s e2o, one of India’s first electric cars, was facing several issues. The community tried to help the owners then. At that time, the company had stopped at-home services. “I saw how the users had problems, and how the community got together and helped each other…so when I purchased the EV, I searched on Facebook and other communities and tried to find like-minded people,” Ahuja said.
Ahuja got together with four or five others and started a Nexon EV Owners Group on WhatsApp, which has now grown into a Tata EV Owners Group, with several state chapters, as well as for different Tata models. The community now has WhatsApp groups, Telegram channels, and various pages on X. All of these are moderated by select admins, who are part of a separate group.
“We have about 7,000 registered members currently,” said Ahuja. Only registered members, who show proof of owning a Tata EV can join the groups. However, there are also several groups and channels which are open to potential users who may have questions. Plus, some groups are more general and open to owners of both two-wheelers and cars from different manufacturers.
Why They Are Important
While there hasn’t been much research into the role these communities play in adopting the nascent technology in India, research by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) shows that word of mouth is very important for three-wheelers and passenger vehicles.
“Their decisions have been influenced through channels like word-of-mouth awareness and experiential learning at auto-stands in comparison to other channels,” Himani Jain, senior programme lead, CEEW told The Core. According to a McKinsey report from September 2023, most users in India rely on positive word-of-mouth reviews before deciding which brand to buy.
One of the main functions of these communities is to solve issues new and even experienced users are facing. Harish, who is based in Bangalore, is an admin for two or three WhatsApp groups and Telegram channels himself. He purchased an Ather scooter in 2022. “Almost all the learning which I have on EVs is through these groups…these groups are more educational, and they are more knowledgeable than the service guys,” he told The Core.
Many users build their knowledge, or already come with a vast repository of technical knowledge and can help others facing technical glitches or software troubles.
Dr Mohammed Parvez Farooqi, who is a government medical officer in Patiala, started an EV group on Facebook, and later on X, called XRoaders last year. Before that, he ran a Facebook page for owners of Maruti Suzuki Brezza since 2016. Once he purchased an EV, he launched a page to share his insights. “I am a doctor with an automotive background…my grandfather had a garage. Now I have a little extra time, and I am an auto enthusiast,” he explained. “On my way home, people would stop me and ask me to help them fix issues with their vehicles…now I do it online,” he said.
Praveen, 27, a student based in Bangalore, helps users with software glitches. He is an admin in several groups, both for general EV users and specifically for Ola users. “They tag me whenever they have an issue…and I respond whenever I get time,” he said. “We try our level best to get it done as early as possible because…ola service centres are too crowded,” he said.
Other than technical issues, these communities also help users when they face problems.
A user drove up to a Tata fast charger in Agra one night, in an MG showroom. It was a public charger, and open to all. But the user wasn’t allowed by the showroom dealer. He informed the Tata EV Owners group. “Within 45 minutes, he was allowed to charge the car, that showroom was opened, he was sitting in the customer lounge in the showroom, and he was having a cup of coffee there,” Ahuja said.
Similarly, many of the admins have social media pages, especially on X, to share user grievances. Harish runs a page called Future is Electric on X where he highlights complaints users are facing, often keeping their identity anonymous. It's the only way to get the company’s attention since their service helplines and centres are so often overwhelmed.
Arun, of Ather Owners Coimbatore, uses the group’s X page to highlight complaints. “Many users are hesitant to share their personal complaints online, so they reach out to us and we share on their behalf, he said. These pages have larger followings, and also know who to tag, to get a quick response.”
Another key barrier being addressed is language. Most of the knowledge being shared by companies, including manuals, and videos, is in English and sometimes Hindi. Many users, especially two-wheeler owners, are not very proficient and struggle to understand. They also struggle while reaching out to the companies with complaints, since the procedure is most often to drop an email or book an appointment using an app.
Harish told The Core that he was appointed as an admin to an EV group within months of joining because of his proficiency in English. “So those guys thought we need to learn English so they put me in…I used to teach them English also,” he said. He often helps those people write complaints, he said.
Ahuja explained how the Tata group translated car manuals into several regional languages for users and shared them as PDFs. They make it clear that these aren’t official company manuals, but they help a lot, he said.
How Do The OEMs Respond?
These mushrooming groups don’t exist in a vacuum. Many of the admins are in direct contact with the manufacturers. Ahuja said how many of the community’s active members are in direct contact with management from Tata Motors and with people from the R&D team, although unofficially.
If an issue is recurring for several users, they highlight it with the team. They also share feedback and suggest changes, with the company being very receptive to this. “They’ve said…when they talk to people from our group, they feel that they're talking to their own R&D team,” said Ahuja. Often when an issue isn’t resolved and needs escalation, they step in and get in touch with senior management from the company as well.
Similarly, Praveen said how several experienced Ola users are part of a group with the company where they can be in touch with employees, share feedback, and get information on updates and events.
Several events are organised by companies – like Ola Electric has organised rides to their Future Factory campus in Bangalore for interested users. These are shared and organised by admins like Praveen.
Similarly, Ather has a community forum on its website and its app, where users can share their queries and also communicate with other users. Tata Motors introduced a community engagement programme called ‘Evolve’ for Tata EV owners in June 2023, where events such as visits to plants, group drives and more are organised.
A Sense Of Community
What is palpable in these social media groups is a sense of camaraderie and community among users. It's not just in times of trouble, many users The Core spoke to mentioned how they had become friends with users they met online. Many of them have organised group trips and rallies, translating what is essentially an online community into a physical one.
Ahuja said how they often printed QR codes to their groups and stuck them on car windshields to get new users to join. Many salespersons will also recommend these groups to new or potential users. Other than that, social media and word-of-mouth are primarily how these groups continue to grow.
Of course, most of these communities are huge with a large number of users only popping in when they have an issue that needs to be resolved. And yet, there is an opportunity to go beyond. “They are strangers to us before…[but those] who are hyperactive when they're interacting with us, we become close to friends,” Praveen said.