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How Ola cabs sped to the top gear. CEO Bhavish Aggarwal on his billion dollar journey

How Ola cabs sped to the top gear. CEO Bhavish Aggarwal on his billion dollar journey

Tuesday October 28, 2014 , 3 min Read

Ola, India’s largest cab-booking app, today confirmed Series D funding of USD 210MM from Softbank. This is a significant milestone for mobile internet revolution in India.


Bhavish Aggarwal, the young and dynamic CEO of Ola, was recently at TechSparks Grand Finale. During a Fireside Chat, he opened up about Ola’s culture, his future plans, about being rooted in India and building for India’s mobile-first economy.

Below are some snippets from the conversation along with the video from TechSparks Grand Finale.

Bhavish kicked off the session by talking about support from YourStory when he had just started Ola. I want to congratulate YourStory team for a wonderful TechSparks. I was at E-Sparks three years ago when Ola was really small and I was pitching at the event. YourStory represents the Indian startup ecosystem very well. Wonderful job with that.

Talking about Ola’s evolving culture, Bhavish said, “We want to keep the crux of our culture constant as we evolve and grow. I think that’s the single biggest challenge any entrepreneur faces as the company grows.” Bhavish described Ola’s culture as nimble, aggressive and ambitious. Bhavish emphasized on focusing on first-principles to arrive at decision making.

Talking about how they dealt with competition, Bhavish said, “Competition is good for the consumer. It keeps the existing players nimble with a focus on the consumer. We have faced global competition early on compared to the e-commerce players. But we stayed focused on our India roots and it served us really well. Today, we have over 60% marketshare, despite global competition being around for over an year and a half. We allow cash payments. Real India pays through cash.”

On creating ecosystem for drivers, Bhavish said,

Our PM has placed special emphasis on skill development. We are very well positioned as a company to tackle that problem. In India, we have millions of drivers who still work in a very inefficient ecosystem. We tied up with car manufacturers, NBFCs, and insurance providers so that drivers can leverage our scale and get access to better structured loans, get cheaper access to insurance, repairs and buy second hand cars etc. We feel we need to be the representative of small business owner.

Commenting on the initial days of Ola, he said, “Nobody knew when we were raising angel money that transportation could be a sexy thing. Raising angel money was hard. But it also helps to go through fire early on.”

Watch video below: 

Bhavish’s advice to younger founders: “Go out and start up. It is the hardest thing to do. For me it was very hard. When I started, my parents thought I was going to become a travel agent. It was very hard to convince them that I was not.”

“On the consumer business side, people previously used to lust after cars, now they lust after phones. Now, people want the latest phone and not the latest car anymore. The mobile will be a key aspect to the next decade of consumption. Every business will be re-written using mobile. New business should just think mobile-first and build for it immediately.”