OLA - Competing World's Most Valued Startup from India

'Ola', the company needs no introduction. The first cab aggregator company In India, Ola has made availing cab services a smooth experience. Owned by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd., and formerly known as OlaCabs, Ola was started in Dec 2010 by two IIT Bombay graduates. Ola serves as an efficient taxi aggregator and bridges the gap between cab owners and commuters.

Instead of buying and renting out their own cars, Ola partners with a number of taxi drivers and owners, add a touch of modern technology to the whole set up, where people could book cars at short notice through their app. Ola is India’s homegrown ride-hailing app with about 60% market share (as of 2014) in India with users across 100 cities of India and 15 lakh driver-partners. Driven by a hyperlocal approach, Ola is committed to its mission of building mobility for a billion people. Staying in line with its mission, Ola has also ventured into auto and bike booking services. In 2017, Ola also started off a bicycle sharing service called 'Ola Pedal' to facilitate last mile connectivity.

Ola Highlights

Startup Name Ola
Headquarter Bangalore
Co-founders Bhavish Aggarwal, Ankit Bhati
Sector Trasportation
Founded December 2010
Parent Company ANI technologies Pvt. Ltd.

Ola - Services
Ola - Industry Details
Ola - Founders
How was Ola Started
Ola - Initial Team
Ola - Full Form, Tagline & Logo
Ola - Business Model and Revenue Model
Ola - User Acquisition
Ola - Funding & Investors
Ola - Startup Challenges
Ola - Competitors
Ola - Acquisitions and Merger
Ola - Growth

Ola - Services

Ola has super simplified the process of cab booking. From easy payment options to keeping the passenger entertained on the go with 'Ola Play', Ola takes care of all to ensure a smooth ride. Ola now also offers self-drive cars. Besides, be it for self-drive or as cab, Ola offers a wide range of cars to choose from depending on the number of travelers, budget and convenience. For traveling within the city, apart from cabs, one can also hire shared taxis, auto, bike and even e-rickshaws through Ola.

One can opt for ‘Ola Outstation’ to travel outside the city and ‘Ola rentals’ to rent a cab on an hourly basis.

Ola has also launched ‘Ola Select’, a subscription-based membership program that offers premium benefits on rides.

In 2016, Ola launched ‘Ola Corporate’. Through Ola Corporate while employees can easily book their rides, the fare is deducted from a company’s Ola Corporate prepaid account. Through Ola Corporate, any company can easily track the travel expenses of its employees while also ensuring their safety.

Ola Pedal, Ola’s bicycle-sharing service is already a big hit in IIT Kanpur and IIT Madras campus with over 500 cycles.

Ola also introduced Ola Money. The products offered under Ola Money are Ola Money Credit card, Ola Money postpaid, Ola Money mobile wallet and Ola Money Hospicash. Ola Hospicash is a collaboration between Ola and Religare Health Insurance and allows the policyholders to claim Rs 5000 per day in case of hospitalization.

Ola operates with a lot of transparency. The Commission is given to drivers per sale made. It is pocket-friendly as their charges are far much less than any other cab operators.

With acquisition of FoodPanda in December 2017, Ola also forayed into the cloud kitchen segment.

Ola launched India's first multimodal electric vehicle project on 26th of May, 2017. The project brought together industry and government to pioneer electric vehicles for public and shared mobility in Nagpur. Ola is providing 200+ electric vehicles  for booking in Nagpur through its app.Established as a separate entity, Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. Ltd also reached unicorn status with $250 million investment form SoftBank in July 2019.

Ola - Industry Details

India’s taxi hailing market is valued at more than $10 Billion. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 13.7% during 2017-2022. The increase is supposed to happen due to changing lifestyles of travellers and increasing disposable income of consumers, especially in Tier-I and Tier-II cities.

Ola - Founders

Bhavish graduated from IIT Bombay with a B. Tech in Computer Science in the year 2008. Bhavish Aggarwal has worked for Microsoft research, Bangalore for two years right after college. There, he passed two years with filing 2 patents and 3 research publishing in international journals. While trying to chase his dream of entrepreneurship, he started an online company to sell short duration tours and holidays online before changing that into OlaCabs. Bhavish Aggarwal is now the CEO of Ola. As of 2019, Bhavish's personal net worth is estimated around $350 Million.  

Ankit Bhatia is the cofounder of Ola and heads the technical aspects of OlaCabs, ensuring a quick, convenient and instinctive experience for the customers and partners. He joined IIT Bombay in 2004 for Btech in Mechanical Engg and MTech in CAD and Automation. By 2009 he had already worked on several freelance projects and startups like Wilcom, QED42 etc. and finally decided to give up his nomadic professional life for a start-up of his own. He joined the Olacabs journey in November 2010.

How was Ola Started

Born in Ludhiana, Bhavish was just like every other success-driven entrepreneur. Initially, Bhavish started an online site named Olatrip.com that offered holiday packages and weekend trips. While trying to keep his holiday and tour planning business afloat, Bhavish had to travel from Bangalore to Bandipur, for which he rented out a car, which ended in a very bad experience. The driver stopped the car in the middle of the journey and demanded a renegotiation of what Bhavish was paying. After being refused, he proceeded to abandon him enroute his destination. This is when he realized how his plight was probably similar to a lot of customers across the country who were looking for a quality cab services.

For the first time, he saw the amount of potential that an extraordinary cab booking service could have, and hence, he changed his business from his earlier start-up to the one we today know as – OlaCabs.

This was in December 2010, he was joined by his co-founder Ankit Bhati in his start-up journey. His parents didn’t agree with his idea in the beginning of course, like all Indian Parents won’t. They were thoroughly displeased with his decision to become a ‘travel agent’. But nevertheless, their support increased as they got their first round of angel investment (from Snapdeal founder Kunal Bahl, Rehan yar Khan and Anupam Mittal).

Bhavish believed that anyone can have a good business idea but to function it successfully one must have a scalable model upon which the business runs. According to him, the best or one of the best & safest model one can or should adopt is running a business with owning “zero” inventory.

Also read how BookMyShow and Jugnoo got started.

Ola - Initial Team

After the idea, the design and vision were done by Usha Loutongbam, product manager and Bhavish himself. As for the developers who converted these ideas into reality: The first version for Android was built by Ajinkya Potdar and for iOS by Khushal Bokadey. Both of them joined the company for two months of internship and did an excellent job rolling out the release in real quick time. After that the iOS app was taken over by Atul Manwar and android by Ankit Kumar and backend APIs by Neeti Birla. The main focus of the new releases is to make the app feature rich while constantly improving the user experience and yet not losing the essence of one touch cab booking.

Ola Logo- StartupTalky
Ola Logo

In Spanish, Hola translates to ‘Hello’ hence the name Ola probably to indicate that their services are as easy and friendly as that, just like saying a ‘hello’. Ola's logo is simple but styled as OLΛ. The logo also has an "O" which represents a tyre.

Ola - Business Model and Revenue Model

Ola's business model works on a simple concept. OLA acts as a facilitator in providing cab-booking services. Customers can book their cabs through the app. OLA does not own any of the cabs. Only those drivers with valid permits duly authorized and verified by transport authorities can sign up with OLA and they could be either self-employed or work for an operator who owns multiple cars. Just like how we use the OLA App, the drivers get access to a driver mobile app on their Smartphone once they register with OLA. This is done only after a thorough check of authenticity and conducting due diligence of commercial papers and personal papers of driver and operator. The drivers have flexibility to decide their own time to login to OLA Application and accept requests for rides from customers. They may choose to remain logged out of the system as per their convenience. Ola takes a commission of an average 15% on all the booking done through the app.

Ola consider the following factors to create the final bill for the user:
1: Base Fare- Charged Flat
2: Distance Fare- Charged Kilometer Wise (different for different cities)
3: Ride Time Fare- Charged time taken to travel
4: Peak Pricing- Direct Ratio depending on demand for cab
5: Service Tax- 5.6 %
6: Swachh Bharat Tax- 0.2%
7: Toll Charges- Toll Collection in case you cross Toll Junction on roads

Ola - User Acquisition

Ola has also got in to 3 international market namely Australia, United Kingdom and New Zealand. In Australia, it has set-up operations in seven cities. It claims to have registered 40,000 drivers on its app in Australia. In India, Ola operates across over 250 cities.

Ola - Funding & Investors

Date Stage Amount Investor
July 2014 Series C $40 Million Steadview Capital and Sequoia Capital
October 2014 Series D $210 Million SoftBank Group,Tiger Global and Matrix Partners India
April 2015 Series E $403 Million DST Global, GIC and Falcon Edge Capital
November 2015 Series F $500 Million Baillie Gifford, Falcon Edge Capital, Tiger Global, SoftBank Group and DST Global
April 2017 Series G $260 Million SoftBank Group
May 2017 Series F $100 Million RNT Capital Advisors and Falcon Edge Capital
October 2017 Series G $1.1 Billion Tencents Holdings and SoftBank Group
September 2018 Series I $50 Million Sailing Capital
January 2019 Series J $74 Million Steadview Capital
February 2019 Series J $92 Million Sachin Bansal
March 2019 Corporate Round $300 Million Hyundai Motor Co.& Kia Motors Corp
July 2019 Series J $11.4 Million Deshe Holdings, DIG Investment
September 2019 Series J $5.1 Million ARK Ola Pre IPO Private Investment Trust

Ola has raised a total funding of around $3.8 billion. This also includes Debt financing and secondary market. Ola's current valuation is more than $6 billion.

Considering that the 8 years old startup, Ola is valued at $6 billion makes it the third highest valued consumer internet company in India. The lure of this home-grown cab aggregator has proved irresistible to investors.

As per data till October 8 2018, Ola's major shareholders include SoftBank Group (26.1%), Tiger Global (15.94 %), Tencent (10.39 %), Matrix Partners (8.57 %), and DST Global (6.72%).

Ola - Startup Challenges

Initially, the founders had to face many challenges. They worked long hours and sometimes Ankit had to code for 48 hours straight. Sometimes they have had to drive the customer to their desired locations because the drivers had not shown up. But this does not dampen their spirits. They worked day and night and people started liking their services. They started getting famous quickly for the services they provided at such a low rate. The twist in their story happened when angel investors Rohit Bansal and Kunal Bahl invested Rs 2 crore in their business. This gave them an initial push and since then there was no looking back for the company.

As much as Ola wanted to meet the needs of the customers by scaling up to different cities, each city faced its own infrastructural challenge. The app required the use of the 2G network. The team had to design an app that could accommodate network connectivity in smaller towns.

Ola - Competitors

Ola directly competes with Uber, world’s most well-financed startup having raised more than $15 billion in equity and debt on a recent valuation of $62 billion.  Other players in India include Meru Cabs Company Pvt. Ltd. which owns meru cabs, Carzonrent (India) Pvt. Ltd which owns carzonrent and Zoomcar India Private. Ltd. which owns zoomcar. In bike taxi, Rapido is slowly capturing Ola's market share.

Ola - Acquisitions and Merger

Acquiring Date Startup Name Amount
March 2015 TaxiForSure USD 200 Million
November 2015 Geotagg Undiscolsed
March 2016 Qarth Undiscolsed
December 2017 Foodpanda USD 31.7 Million
April 2018 Ridlr Undiscolsed
August 2019 Pikup.ai Undisclosed

Also read startup story of BookMyShow, Jugnoo and MakeMytrip

Ola - Growth

In 2010, the Ola founders identified a serious gap in Mumbai. Cabs used to be idle. Cab operators charged very high irrespective of the distance to compensate for the time they stayed idle. Poor services and delays were treated as an obvious thing. In 2011, they could make 10 bookings in a day. In October 2015, they booked 700,000 daily rides. They thought of piloting tracking devices in each cab but let go of the idea in January 2012. In April 2012, Ola expanded its operation in Bangalore and Delhi. Ola has covered an interesting journey from being nothing to being a company that provides a livelihood to thousands of people. Today,Ola has become a part of people’s everyday life in many cities.

Talking about figures, in FY 2019, Ola Cab's operational revenue increased to Rs 2543.63 crore from Rs 1847.53 crore in FY18. While the company's losses decreased from Rs 2842.26 crore in FY18 to Rs 2592.92 Crore in FY19. Ola is also in talks with Microsoft  and is expecting to raise $150-200 million from the tech giant soon. As revealed by Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal, the company is planning to launch IPO in the next two years.

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About Shubham Kumar

Founder @StartupTalky. IIT KGP grad. Learner. Dedicated to the service of the startup Ecosystem. Love meeting people. Let's connect - [email protected]
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