Billion Dollar Unicorns: Ola At Crossroads

The constant strikes at both Ola and Uber following a cut in driver incentives have taken a toll on their growth. Ola and Uber together grew just 20% to 3.5 million rides per day in 2018 across all segments, including taxis, autorickshaws, and shared cabs. Compare this to 2016 when they collectively grew 90% to 1.9 million rides in 2016 and 57% to 2.8 million rides a day in 2017. Despite losses and slow growth, India’s largest ride-hailing service Ola Cabs recently raised $50 million that valued it at about $4.3 billion, making it the second most valuable Billion Dollar Unicorn in India. 

Ola’s Offerings

ANI Technologies, which operates as Ola Cabs, was founded in 2011 by CEO Bhavish Aggarwal and CTO Ankit Bhati in Mumbai. It is now based in Bangalore. Its cab services can be booked through the Ola mobile app. The services range from affordable Ola Micro that charges Rs 6 ($0.09) per Km to superior Ola Lux that charges Rs 25 ($0.4) per Km. Since 2015, it has also expanded its offerings to outstation rides, bikes, three-wheeler auto-rickshaws, and shuttle buses. Its service uses over 1 million vehicles in 169 cities. It has over 6,000 employees.

In November 2016, the company launched Ola Play wherein the car is fitted with entertainment options and users can listen to their favorite music or watch HD episodes of favorite TV shows. In cities that are crippled with traffic that stretches the average ride time to over 45 minutes, the company sees it as a critical move to win over customers.

Ola has also expanded its offerings to the enterprise sector with Ola corporate. It lets employees book a cab for business travel and have it expensed directly to the company account. It also offers Ola Select, a subscription plan at INR 1,299 ($18) per month that protects users from surge pricing and offers benefits like Wi-Fi, priority booking and premium cars at lower rates.

Ola recently said it plans to add 10,000 electric vehicles, mostly e-rikshaws to its platform over the next year. It is also looking at introducing electric cars.

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Disclaimer: More investigation and analysis of Unicorn companies can be found in my latest Entrepreneur Journeys book, Billion ...

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