Time-Travel with Ola: From a startup in bengaluru to one of the world’s largest ride-hailing Firms, how Bhavish Agarwal and Ankit Bhati-founded cab company has changed over years

Produced by: Harshita Tyagi
Designed by: Manoj Kumar

Ola is one of the world’s largest ride-sharing platforms. Bhavish Agarwal started Ola in 2010 with Ankit Bhati, a fellow alumnus from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay. Time travel with Visual Story to see how this startup from Bengaluru has changed over the years.

Ola founded by
IIT alumni duo

Ola, previously known as Ola Cabs, was first founded by Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, two graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. The story of Bhavish Aggarwal's inspiration to start a cab company is straight out of a movie. The entrepreneur was once travelling to Bandipur from Bangalore in a taxi. During the journey, he had a distressing encounter with the driver.

How Ola was conceptualised

Initially, the driver demanded additional payment beyond their agreed-upon fare, but Bhavish Aggarwal refused to pay the extra amount. As a result, the taxi driver abandoned him midway to their destination. The fight and unsettling experience inspired Bhavish Aggarwal to think about opening a ridesharing startup to present a more reliable transportation solution to the country. It was in 2010 when Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati joined hands to co-found Ola Cabs.

Ola: A ridesharing startup

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After completing his graduation from IIT Bombay, Bhavish Aggarwal kick-started his professional journey at the tech giant Microsoft India. Initially, when he shared his startup idea with his parents, they didn’t agree, and 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.

Leaving Microsoft to become an entrepreneur

Instead of buying and renting out their cars, Ola Cabs, now Ola, partnered with many taxi drivers and added a touch of modern technology to the whole setup, where people could book cars at short notice through their call centres and from their app. The bookings allowed half/full day rental and even outstation taxis. It collaborated with taxi drivers and added them to the database with the help of technology. 

A different approach to
cab business

Soon, Ola Cabs became the collective prodigy of Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, owned by ANI Technologies Pvt., Ltd. After a humble beginning, 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, the company in 2014 spread to more than 100 cities pocketing a network of more than 2 lakh cars.

Beating Uber, other rivals

Ola’s founders too had to face a lot of difficulties and challenges in the beginning. Sometimes Ankit Bhati had to code for 48 hours straight while Bhavish Aggarwal had to ride the cab himself and complete the cab booking. Also, back in 2010, internet connectivity in India was not very good as most people used 2G connections. So, Aggarwal and Bhati had to develop an app that could be easily used on 2G network.

Challenges for Ola

Ola is currently India’s largest mobility platform, and one of the world’s largest ride-hailing companies, serving more than 250 cities across India, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK. Ola app offers mobility solutions by connecting customers to drivers and a range of vehicles across bikes, auto-rickshaws, metered taxis, and cabs, enabling convenience for hundreds of millions of consumers and over 1.5 million driver-partners. 

Ola: Present in 250+ cities

In 2017, Ola Electric was established as a wholly-owned subsidiary of ANI Technologies, the parent entity of Ola. The company was started in order to reduce emission and fuel dependency of Ola's cabs, and shift to mass electric mobility. A pilot program was launched in Nagpur in May 2017 by setting up charging stations across the city and procuring electric cabs, e-buses, and e-rickshaws from OEM partners. In April 2018, it announced that it aims to have 1 million EVs in its cab service by 2022.

The birth of Ola Electric

Between December 2018 and January 2019, founder Bhavish Aggarwal bought a 92.5% stake in Ola Electric from ANI Technologies at a valuation of Rs 1 lakh, and Ola Electric was spun off as a separate entity. ANI Technologies continued to hold a 7.5% stake for allowing the use of the "Ola" brand name. Ola’s core mobility offering in India is supplemented by Ola Electric, Ola Fleet Technologies, and Ola Skilling.

Ola's core mobility offering

With its acquisition of Ridlr, India’s leading public transportation app, and investment in Vogo, a dockless scooter-sharing solution, Ola is looking to build mobility for the next billion Indians. Ola also extends its consumer offerings like micro-insurance and credit led payments through Ola Financial Services and a range of owned food brands through India’s largest network of kitchens under its Food business.

Ola Financial Services

Next: Time Travel with Air India: As the airline unveils the new logo, watch how Air India's logo has changed over 91 years