Start-up to Success: Ola Cabs

Gone are the days when commuting without a personal vehicle, used to be an issue for city dwellers. Either they had to resort to public transport which is not always the safest option, or book rental car services way before the trip for enormous amounts. Now with the coming up of app based cab riding services, voyaging has become easier for city dwellers.

And Ola is one of the key players in the market in regard to cab services. It is the first Indian cab aggregator company. Ola has made it much easier for the public to book cab at their own convenience. The company started in 2010 by Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhatia, and since then it has been bridging the gap between cabs and commuters.

Ola partners with a number of taxi drivers and owners, and with the help of their app they allows people to book cabs by entering their pick up location and destination. Ola has users in over 250 Indian cities and employs more than 2.5 million driver-partners.

How did it start ?

It all started when Bhavish Aggarwal while journeying from Bandipur to Bangalore, was left abandoned in his journey by his driver. This was because the driver was renegotiating the already decided payment. This unfortunate incident lead him to come up with a economical and satisfying cab service. And thus, Ola cabs was born.

The founders of Ola, Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhatia are both IIT Mumbai graduates, and launched Ola in December 2010. Both of them became the youngest billionaires of India, at the age of 25 and 26.

The name of the company is driven from the Spanish word ‘Hola’ that translates to ‘Hello’. The name ‘Ola’ probably indicates their services as easy and simple to use. Their logo is simple yet elegant and has the ‘O’ in the shape of a tyre.

Ola has a wide range of car categories to choose from, such as hatchback, sedan, SUV and more. Travellers choose them depending on their budget and number of people travelling. For travelling within the city, people can hire cabs, bikes, autos and even e-rickshaws through Ola.

Challenges and Competitors

In the initial day of the start up they had to code for long hours and sometimes 48 hours straight. They even had to drive customers to their desired locations at times because the drivers did not show up. As much as Ola wanted to spread their services across India, they faced the issue of internet connectivity in smaller town. Thus, they designed the app so that I could accommodate network connectivity in smaller towns. However, after bagging an investment worth 2 crores, things were finally in track and there was no looking back.  

Every business has its fair share of competitors and so does Ola. Uber is Ola’s biggest competitor. There are other players in the Indian market such as, Meru Cabs, Zoomcars, PeIndia Cabs, Carzonerent and more. Rapido is increasing taking over the bike taxi segment as well, which is the competitor to Ola’s bike services.

Needless to say, just like most businesses, Ola too had to bear the burnt of the COVID-19 pandemic. The travel and transport sector was hit severely with the pandemic as there were repeated lockdowns and curfews affecting its revenue generation. However, with the upliftment of lockdowns and curfews, it is believed that Ola will regain its revenue generation soon.  

Addition and Expansions

In spite of facing ups and downs through out the years Ola manages to sail through smoothly. Over the years Ola introduced new services in ‘Ola pedal’, which is a huge success in IIT Kanpur and IIT Madras campuses. They have also introduced the option to book cabs on an hourly basis to travel out of the city and have named the segment ‘Ola outstation’.

‘Ola money’ was also introduced and the product includes Ola money credit card, Ola money post-paid, Ola money mobile wallet and Ola money hospicash. Ola launched ‘Ola corporates’ in 2016, where employees book their rides through Ola, and the fare is deducted from the company’s Ola corporate prepaid account.

In March 2015 Ola acquired ‘TaxiForSure’, another taxi aggregator for $200 million, and maintained its stand in the country’s cab hailing market. Another impressive deal was when Ola acquired Foodpanda-India, an food delivery aggregator in 2017 at a valuation of $40-$50 million. In 2018 onwards, Ola expanded its services overseas in countries of New Zealand, Australia and United Kingdom.

                     Clocking more than 150,000 bookings per day, Ola holds a little less than half of the Indian market (as of the Uber’s 2020 report). The CEO of Ola Bhavish Aggarwal has disclosed that the company is planning on initiating an IPO in the coming years. Ola plans on further expanding their services in remote areas, making India travel luxuriously on a budget.