Bhavish Aggarwal on Ola's work culture and his pursuit of progress and rest

Questioning the cultural adoption of Saturdays and Sundays for rest, Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal believes the ideal pursuit of progress, prosperity, and rest lies not in finding the ‘balance’ between work and life but in harmony instead.

Bhavish Aggarwal on Ola's work culture and his pursuit of progress and rest

Friday August 04, 2023,

4 min Read

Over the last few years, Bhavish Aggarwal, Co-founder and CEO of Ola, has emerged not only as one of the leading innovators in the Indian startup ecosystem but also as an opinionated voice on how we perceive work-life balance.

YourStory Founder-CEO Shradha Sharma caught up with Aggarwal at Ola Electric’s factory in Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu, to understand the entrepreneur’s pursuit of progress, prosperity, and rest. He urges society to rethink the traditional workweek and instead, embrace a more balanced approach to life and work.

"Our generation is destined to toil," he adds.

Saying he believes in the concept of "work-life harmony", Aggarwal envisions a time when work and personal life will coexist harmoniously, allowing individuals to find fulfilment in both spheres. One of the core aspects of his vision is challenging the conventional notion of weekends.

The entrepreneur questions the cultural adoption of Saturdays and Sundays as days of rest, seeing them as Western imports stemming from the Industrial Revolution. Instead, he says we must strive towards a new work routine, one which offers employees ample time for rest and rejuvenation while encouraging them to spend quality moments with their loved ones.

“In the modern age, Saturdays and Sundays hold no value for me," he says. "If I look a few decades ahead, I don't think work is about 5 days of work and 2 days off. But it is hard to put a system around that, and OLA doesn't have a solution."

He hopes that in the next few years, as an ecosystem, “we will develop a different paradigm of work”.

Aggarwal has always been vocal about his own uneasy relationship with work-life balance. In a past interview with YourStory, he had said, "There is no work-life balance in a startup."

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However, the entrepreneur recognises that success is not achieved by merely restructuring work schedules but by striving to achieve excellence in all aspects of life, be it professional or personal.

In the past, Aggarwal and his company have faced criticism regarding Ola’s work culture. Last year, a report by Bloomberg shed light on an incident where an employee was allegedly made to run three laps of its EV factory.

Several Ola employees, in fact, have also quit the company, citing harsh working conditions and many have taken their grievances to social media as well. Reports also allege that Aggarwal is a difficult person to work with, citing unrealistic timelines and temper tantrums over trivial things, such as office stationery.

According to Aggarwal, he can come across as “rough and rude”, describing himself as a “straight shooter”.

He adds, "I have a purpose and passion. Sometimes in the journey of a business, people don't align with it and those separations are not as one wants. That sometimes leads to bitterness and sometimes the bitterness gets amplified."

When asked about ambitious timelines at work, Aggarwal says, "Some people respond to passion negatively, and some take it positively and see it as an opportunity.”

He adds that while he sees himself as a shy person, he doesn’t hesitate to push hard when work needs to get done.

Most of his day involves meetings with different tech teams working across ride-hailing, electric vehicles, and other verticals of the company. And even after all this, Aggarwal says he finds time to read and catch up with all that is happening in the world.

"A job of an entrepreneur is to instigate, and that's what I do all day," he says.

Aggarwal, who reaches his office at 7 am and gets back home at midnight, asserts, "I, as an entrepreneur, have the best job in the world.”

Full interview to release on our Youtube Channel. Please subscribe and click on the bell icon to get notifications for updates.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta