OLA : A Startup Success Story

India seems to be going through a ‘Taxi’ revolution. Every other day, there is a new start up offering efficient cab service to the citizens operating urban and rural lifestyles. The intra-city travel has always been a curse for many individuals, especially in crowded cities like Mumbai and Bangalore.

While the local trains emerge as an alternative to shelling out wads of cash for fuel and waiting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in cosmopolitan Mumbai, the dangers of travelling by these trains are innumerable. The distances in Bangalore crush the spirit out of anyone who loves to drive, and the traffic makes it terrible to drive your own vehicle in the city. Ola Cabs is a taxi service that was started in 2010 in Mumbai to solve the city’s transport woes.

The Ola Cab story

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 service, but ended up with a one that stood them up, arrived and dropped them off late, didn’t stick to their promises, and came with drivers that were nightmares behind wheels.

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 – Ola Cabs. This was in December 2010, where 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 when Ola Cabs received it’s first round of funding from two angel investors, they started to believe in the change he was planning to bring.

Instead of buying and renting out their own cars, Ola Cabs partnered with a number of Taxi Drivers, and added a touch of modern technology to the whole set up, where people could book cars at short notice through their call centers and from their app. The bookings allowed half/full day rental and even outstation taxis. They now have almost 4,000,000 cabs across the country, offering variety of car options – Mini, Prime, Luxury – which can be paid for through on of the different modes available.

Bhavish who works 16 hours a day, promises transparency in prices, where Ola Cabs gets a commission on every sale that the taxi driver makes, which makes it a company that works on pay-per-performance model. The taxi drivers can also opt for the access to the technology platform benefits, by paying a minimal fee to Ola Cabs.

Since it’s inception, Ola Cabs has raised funds from SoftBank Corp, and other investors during two rounds of VC finding. They also recently came up with the plan of ‘charging lesser than an average autorickshaw’ by offering cabs at ridiculously cheap prices of Rs.10/km.

Ola Cabs has now ventured into collaborating with autos, with the launch of OlaAuto. You can now find an auto on demand, using their app.

“I devote a lot of time to hire the right people. We keep on looking until we’ve found the right person. More than the skill match, we’re looking for the culture match,” says Bhavish. “Being a very aggressive company, it is not everyone’s cup of tea and finding the right people is invaluable,”

We completely agree. In the end, it’s the people that keep a company running, or should we say driving?

The Founders:

Bhavish Aggarwal:
Education: B. Tech in Computer Science from IIT, Bombay. Prior work experience: Worked in Microsoft Research, Bangalore for 2 years, right after college. While trying to chase his dream of entrepreneurship, he started an online holiday and tour planning service on the side, before changing that into Ola Cabs.

Ankit Bhati

Education: Dual Degree(M.Tech+B.Tech) from IIT Bombay.
Prior work experience: Worked in a number of start ups including QED42, Makesense and Wilcom, before joining Ola Cabs.

OLA – The market : India’s taxi hailing market is valued at more than $10Bn.

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, 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 – Competitor : Ola directly competes with Uber world’s most well-financed startup having raised $15 billion in equity and debt.

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