IIT-B graduate, Bhavish Aggarwal’s journey into the entrepreneurial world is a classic example of tryst with destiny. On a trip to Bandipur from Bangalore by cab, Bhavish had a horrifying experience when he was abandoned and left to fend for himself—shocking, but true! This became the turning point in his career and gave birth to Ola cabs. This was also a time when the whole idea of having a cab on call through an App was completely unknown.
The idea behind starting Ola:
A Research Intern with Microsoft Research India, Bhavish toggled with the idea of the potential a cab booking service could have after his recent nightmarish experience. He realized that while people were willing to pay, they got held up due to lack of genuine cab services that could drop them off to important destinations on time. At this juncture, Bhavish, along with his friend and fellow IIT-B grad, Ankit Bhati, realized the huge potential that cab booking service could have and decided to give it a go. Thus Ola cabs came into being in December 2010. Officially owned by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd., Ola bridged the gap between cab owners and commuters and proved to be a welcome change to the millions distraught by daunting and shoddy cab services.
Instead of buying and renting their cars, Ola planned an alternate strategy for success. Why not tie up with taxi drivers directly and give their cabs a complete technological make over? Customers were allowed to book through call centers or their App and bingo! The idea worked!
Initially, they paid only fancy tips to the drivers, on condition that the driver made at least one trip/day. With time, when this incentive fetched them enough drivers, they reduced the tips but started actually paying the drivers. This way, they started off with an amazing strategy and altered it with time in a way that left both the drivers and the owners satisfied.
Meanwhile, it was imperative to keep ahead of Uber (Ola’s no. 1 competitor), and to some extent, Meru and Fast Track also who were rising in popularity. To ensure customer satisfaction, they tweaked travel and tariff plans to suit customer needs. They gradually expanded to include outstation travel and by 2014, they already had 200,000 cars plying across 100 cities. Approximately 150,000 bookings were made in a day and they had captured approximately 60% of market share in India. For more on the statistics against Uber as of 2016 look here.
From here, there was no looking back.
- They launched the Ola Mini service in Bangalore which expanded to include other cities too. With an introductory price of Rs. 12/km and a base price of Rs. 150 for the first 6 kilometers, it offered something that no cab service had thought of– ever!
- In early 2015, Ola roped in autos that proved useful for customers taking short trips.
- By March 2015, they bought TaxiForSure—a merger which made them work with cab operators as well.
- Moving beyond transportation, Ola also launched a food delivery feature in select cities in early 2015, ‘The Ola Café’, but had to be called off as it did not live up to its expectations.
- In 2016, Ola introduced offline booking facilities and tied up with BMW to add a hint of luxury to their existing fleet.
What makes Ola Successful?
In one of the interviews with the ET (Economic Times) in 2014, Bhavish Aggarwal stated, “Take that chance….There will be situations when your actions will have different outputs. Still, believe in what you do.” Demonetization has proved quite beneficial for Ola as more customers are choosing cashless rides. In December last year they partnered with Yes Bank to bring cash to customers via micro ATMs powered by the bank. To know more on this look up here.
Winner of the ET Best Startup of the Year Award (2015), Ola has proved that there are no shortcuts to success and Bhavish Aggarwal stands testimony to this. He along with Ankit identified a common, everyday problem and with the help of technology and right thinking offered a solution making travel cashless and hassle-free. Whatever strategy they applied, their primary focus was customer satisfaction. They used technology to make cabs available at the doorstep making life easier for the common man. Now, with Shalabh Seth taking over as the CEO of Ola Fleet Technologies, Ola is all set to secure its leadership role through supply growth and driver- focused initiatives.
January is already packed with discounts—on rides during weekends and for senior citizens, cashback on food and gaming with their partners, at select products on malls—and more. With others in the cab business literally washed away, Ola knows its strategies well and continues to reign. Starting with Cabs, it has moved on to autos and then to bikes and even shuttle service (at select places). What’s more to come? Wait and watch!