Key lessons from Ola's Bhavish Aggarwal at TechSparks 2020 from his journey to define the future of mobility

Co-founder and CEO of ride-hailing unicorn Ola made several bold and ambitious statements at TechSparks 2020. Check out some of the key takeaways from his session.
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Audacity, dreaming big, making things happen, and being unapologetically ambitious’ -- these are a few phrases YourStory Media Founder and CEO Shradha Sharma used to describe Indian startup ecosystem’s poster boy Bhavish Aggarwal

The co-founder of ride-hailing giant Ola is usually considered a man of few words. However, Bhavish did not shy away from making bold and ambitious statements at the 11th edition of YourStory’s flagship event TechSparks 2020.

Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-founder and CEO, Ola

“Technologies and business models are converging to transform the mobility industry and it’s a global phenomenon — to make mobility more sustainable. We believe Ola is very well positioned to build this future, for India and the world,” he said in a virtual fireside chat with Shradha. 

Here are the key takeaways from this very insightful session — titled Defining the future of mobility: economic, environmental, and social implications for India and the world — with Bhavish Aggarwal.

On mobility 

  • “When I started off, I was a 24-year old kid. I feel lucky to be in this domain. I was just trying to solve everyday commute challenges. I feel we are at the right place at the right time.” 
  • “If we look at history, mobility has been core to human progress. We are at an inflexion point where tech is transforming mobility again — by making it safer, more convenient, and cheaper.”
  • “Our ambition is to help move all forms of mobility to cleaner energy.”
  • “It’s important to change from fossil fuels to clean energy. India is a large two-wheeler country and we’ve been working for three years to deliver a clean energy two-wheeler.”
“If we are successful, we believe we (Ola) can also create a whole electric mobility ecosystem in India.” 

Ola Co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal in a virtual fireside conversation with YourStory Founder and CEO Sharadha Sharma

Ola’s 10 years plan 

  • “We started off very organically… Between 2014 and 2018, we grew maybe 1,000 times because of the adoption of technology. Maybe the same will happen with electric (EVs).” 
“We want to build a world-class company that is profitable and sustainable.” 
  • “Our ambition is to play across the value chain of mobility...and we are building a 10-plus year vision.”
  • “Our approach is to catch the technology disruption at inflexion points.” 
  • “We want to accelerate the adoption curve (of lighter vehicles) and make the most of that opportunity.” 

On trends that will define the future of mobility 

  • Servicification of mobility — people wanting to use something versus buying something. “That’s the trend Ola rode globally and the whole ride-sharing industry was built around this trend.”
  • Transportation of energy technology — “EVs and lithium-ion batteries are one part of that, and fuel cells and hydrogen will become more relevant in different parts of the mobility segments.” 
  • “But it’s much earlier than its (fuel cells and hydrogen) inflexion, and we (Ola) want to play a leading role in that.” 
  • Concept of mobility is transforming — “The whole notion of a vehicle is becoming more modern with digital technology. It is becoming a vehicle, which knows you, is a smart vehicle, is your companion, keeps you much safer than before, and is more efficient and cleaner.” 
  • Way individuals buy mobility products — “To buy a mobility product, we go to dealerships today that is completely going to change.”

Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-founder of Ola

On entrepreneurship 

  • “An entrepreneur is driven by hope and positive optimism. If you’re doing it for the right reasons, optimism comes naturally.”
  • “You have to put yourself behind the vision and ambition. It is never easy to go there; you have to work very hard.”
  • Playbook for building an institution: 

- “Don’t focus on operations that you ignore the organisation.” 

       -“Strengthen organisation structures and culture, consistently.” 

-“We (at Ola) focus on talent growth and not talent retention.” 

“Plain simple persistence is the most underrated value of an entrepreneur. It’s very tough to be persistent. If you have an iron-strong will, you will succeed.”
  • On being called a ‘workaholic’ — “It's a negative term but when you are passionate, it doesn’t matter what the world calls you.” 
  • “We want to be the place for ambitious people who want to grow and do their best work.” 
  • “For a good entrepreneur and team, there will always be capital. Chase the fundamentals and other things come around.”

On India and its youth 

  • “Us Indians believe in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — the world is one family. Our philosophy and ethos are different from China, the US, or Europe. This ethos reflects in the companies we create. We have a lot more empathy for the communities and this helps us create success globally.”
  • “We want to build an Indian institution at a global stage. We are willing to put ourselves behind that vision and ambition.” 
  • “Our goal from day one is to build a strong Indian company.”
  • “We (the Indian youth) have the ambition and willingness to follow our dreams.”
  • “India’s youth are ambitious and we have the ability to take on anyone in the world.”
Bhavish ended the session by declaring, “We will create for India, and from India. A company which builds for India, can build for the world.” 

TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta