Ola startup story

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The smiles that last as long as the distance covered. The success story of Ola cabs

Taking a can or hiring cars for cross-city travels have always been a huge issue in Indian society. Stuck in a similar situation, abandoned in the middle of the road by his cab driver, this young entrepreneur decided to take matters into his own hands.

Founders of Ola Cabs - Ola startup story - Verzeo

Homegrown cab aggregator startup Ola Cabs was born when Bhavish Aggarwal found himself in the middle of a trip from Bangalore to Bandipur, having a horrible experience.

Ola Cabs became the collective prodigy of Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, owned by ANI Technologies Pvt., Ltd. After a humble beginning in 2010, Ola became one of the fastest-growing startups in India, beating its global rivals Uber and Meru Cabs. So much so that only after 4 years of being in operation in 2014, the company spread to more than 100 cities pocketing a network of more than 200,000 cars. Clocking more than 150,000 bookings per day, Ola held over 60% of the market share in India by 2014.

What started as a cross-city cab aggregator company soon launched mini cabs for city travel in Bangalore and Delhi NCR. With a base price of Rs.150 for the first six kilometers and an introductory price of Rs. 12 per kilometer, Ola became the cheapest AC cab services in India. To date, the company claims to have a user base of 200 million globally and a network of over 2.5 million driver-partners across 250 cities.

Ola Cabs stats at a glance - Ola startup story - Verzeo

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Coming up with the Idea of rental cab business

Bhavish Aggarwal’s entrepreneurial journey started way before he ventured into the cab rental business. Before starting Ola Cabs he started an online company to sell short-duration tours and holidays.

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 to 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 – OlaCabs.

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 at the beginning, of course, like all Indian Parents won’t. They were thoroughly displeased with his decision to become a ‘travel agent’, but when OlaCabs received its 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 cars, OlaCabs partnered with many 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 a variety of car options –Mini, Prime, Luxury – which can be paid for through one of the different modes available.

Journey/timeline of Ola cabs - Ola startup story - Verzeo

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

Initial challenges and rise to the top

Like every other newborn startup, Ola’s founders too had to face a lot of difficulties and challenges. They had to work long hours and sometimes Ankit had to code for 48 hours straight while Bhavish had to ride the cab himself and complete the cab booking.

Another problem which they faced was networking connectivity issues. Back in 2010, internet connectivity in India was not very good. The majority of the population did not have access to the internet and those who had used a 2G connections. So they had to develop an app that could be easily used on the 2G network. But this did not diminish their passion. They worked day and night and people slowly and overtime started to like their services.

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.

Since it’s inception, OlaCabs has raised funds from SoftBank Corp, and other investors during two rounds of VC funding. 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. OlaCabs 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,” Bhavish told YourStory in an interview.

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

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