Cash-rich Ola set to expand in 100 cities by 2016, eyes small towns

  • Nachiket Kelkar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Nov 01, 2014 09:46 IST

Taxi service aggregator Ola (formerly Olacabs), which recently raised $210 million (Rs 1,309 crore) funding from Japan’s SoftBank Corp and existing investors, plans to scale up operations to 100 cities from the current 19. The company, which is eyeing small towns for growth, also plans to invest in driver eco-system, such as training centres and technology upgrade.

Ola has so far raised about $277 million from four rounds of funding.

“We want to expand more rapidly than what we have been doing in the past. By the end of 2015-16, we want to be present in 100 cities across India,” Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder of Ola, told HT.

Aggarwal, a computer science engineer from IIT-Bombay, co-founded Ola with batchmate Ankit Bhati, in 2011.

The company, which competes with the likes of TaxiforSure and Uber, hosts around 33,000 cabs on its platform. It doesn’t own cabs and doesn’t recruit drivers, but connects customers with cab operators via its mobile application.

Other cab services such as Meru, which is present in several cities, is also its key competitor.

Ola refused to share its earnings figures.

In October itself, the company added six-seven cities, Aggarwal said. He added that the limited availability of public transport in small towns offers the company an oppurtunity for growth.

However, it’s not just expansion that Ola is focused on.

“We are a technology company. So apart from expansion, we will use large part of the money to also upgrade our technology and enhance our back-end infrastructure. We will also be investing in driver eco-system,” he said.

It will look at driver training programmes and also aims to make it easier for drivers to become entrepreneurs by connecting them with car manufacturers, insurance providers and financial institutions to make the process of buying a car, taking a loan etc. easier.

Post the funding this week, Nikesh Arora, vice-chairman of SoftBank will get a board seat on Ola.

Aggarwal said Arora and SoftBank will bring their international insights and experiences, which will help Ola in improving its business much more.

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