Dive deep into the inspiring story of Bhavish Aggarwal, from an everyday corporate professional to the founder of India’s largest mobility platform, Ola Cabs.
Our world is a tapestry of innovation and disruptive ideas, and every once in a while, a visionary emerges who pushes the boundaries of what’s possible. One such visionary is Bhavish Aggarwal, the Co-Founder and CEO of Ola Cabs, whose remarkable entrepreneurial journey has inspired countless young entrepreneurs across the globe.
A symbol of resilience, innovation, and exemplary leadership, Bhavish Aggarwal, has not only revolutionized India’s transport industry but has also ushered a new era of digital economy in the country. His relentless pursuit of innovation and indomitable spirit are the cornerstones of his success story, providing a roadmap for budding entrepreneurs.
Born and raised in India, Bhavish, an IIT Bombay alumnus, began his career as a regular corporate employee. However, a powerful combination of entrepreneurial spirit and a deep desire to drive change led him to leave his cushy job to follow an uncharted path, a path that has transformed the urban mobility landscape in India and beyond.
The journey, however, was not a smooth one. His success story is riddled with challenges and failures, but these setbacks only made him more resolute. He faced adversity head-on, believing in the power of his vision, and today, his brainchild, Ola Cabs, is a billion-dollar business entity providing a livelihood for hundreds of thousands of drivers and a seamless commuting experience for millions of users.
This in-depth account of the inspiring story of Bhavish Aggarwal aims to explore the key steps of his entrepreneurial journey, uncover the lessons learned, and inspire you with insights to navigate your own entrepreneurial voyage.
Bhavish Aggarwal’s Journey as an Entrepreneur
- Educational Background: Bhavish Aggarwal graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, one of India’s premier institutions, where he honed his problem-solving and technical skills. This solid foundation would play a pivotal role in his future entrepreneurial endeavors.
- Initial Corporate Stint: After his graduation, Bhavish began his career at Microsoft Research, where he filed two patents and published three papers in international journals. However, the corporate world’s predictable path couldn’t contain his entrepreneurial spirit for long.
- Entrepreneurial Awakening: His journey towards entrepreneurship began with a bitter personal experience. While renting a car for a weekend trip, he had a terrible experience which exposed him to the glaring issues in the country’s transportation sector. He saw this problem as an opportunity.
- Start of Journey with Ola Cabs: In 2010, Bhavish founded Ola Cabs (then Olacabs) with his co-founder, Ankit Bhati. The platform started as an online website for booking cabs, intending to provide a more reliable, efficient, and affordable transportation solution.
- Facing Initial Resistance: The journey was riddled with challenges from the get-go. From convincing cab drivers to join their platform to the skepticism from investors, Bhavish faced an uphill battle but remained undeterred in his mission.
- First Funding Milestone: Despite the initial resistance, Ola Cabs managed to secure its first significant investment of $330,000 from Rehan Yar Khan and Anupam Mittal. This milestone was instrumental in reinforcing their faith in the business model and led to further scaling.
- Innovative Business Model: The uniqueness of Ola Cabs lay in its business model. Unlike traditional cab companies, Ola didn’t own any cars. It connected cab owners and customers, providing convenience and affordability and changing the dynamics of the urban transportation industry.
- Scaling and Expansion: Ola Cabs started expanding rapidly across major Indian cities, offering various categories like Mini, Sedan, and Prime, along with auto-rickshaws, e-rickshaws, and bike taxis to cater to different customer needs.
- Big Leap with TaxiForSure Acquisition: In 2015, Ola Cabs acquired its rival TaxiForSure, further strengthening its position in India’s taxi-hailing market. This $200 million deal marked one of the biggest acquisitions in India’s start-up ecosystem.
- Facing Uber Challenge: Around this time, global giant Uber entered the Indian market, intensifying the competition. Bhavish, however, saw this as an opportunity to innovate further, leading to Ola introducing local language apps and cash payment options, strategies that resonated with the Indian market.
- Introduction of Ola Play: Ola’s commitment to improve the customer experience led to the launch of ‘Ola Play,’ a connected car platform for ride-sharing, enabling users to personalize their travel experience.
- Expansion Beyond Transport: Recognizing the potential of diversification, Ola expanded into food delivery by acquiring Foodpanda’s Indian business and later launched its cloud kitchen, ‘Ola Foods’.
- Entering Electric Vehicle Market: In a bid to reduce carbon footprints, Bhavish launched ‘Ola Electric’, a multi-modal electric platform in India. The company plans to put over a million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2021.
- Venturing Internationally: Under Bhavish’s leadership, Ola expanded beyond Indian borders to countries like Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, further establishing Ola as a global mobility platform.
- Dealing with Regulatory Hurdles: Throughout his journey, Bhavish faced various regulatory challenges in different markets. His resilience and adaptability to navigate through these obstacles have been crucial to Ola’s continued growth.
- COVID-19 Impact: The COVID-19 pandemic hit the mobility sector hard. But Ola emerged resilient by introducing safety measures like ‘Ola Emergency’ for essential travel and ‘Ride Safe India’ for sanitized rides.
- Future Vision: Bhavish’s vision for the future is to transform Ola into a holistic smart mobility solution provider, including electric vehicles, charging solutions, and two-wheeler sharing systems.
- Creating a Global Impact: Bhavish’s journey transcends beyond Ola. As an influential tech leader, he is playing a key role in shaping policies and creating a supportive ecosystem for start-ups in India and worldwide.
What can Entrepreneurs Learn from Bhavish Aggarwal?
- Recognizing Opportunities: Bhavish’s entrepreneurial journey began by identifying an existing problem and seeing it as an opportunity. Entrepreneurs should always be vigilant about the issues around them and envision innovative solutions.
- Resilience is Key: The ability to bounce back from adversity and stay committed to your vision, as Bhavish demonstrated, is a vital trait every entrepreneur should possess.
- Never Shying Away from Competition: Entrepreneurs can learn from Bhavish’s approach to competition. When faced with global giants like Uber, instead of backing down, he took it as an opportunity to improve and innovate.
- Customer-Centric Approach: Bhavish always prioritized customer needs. This customer-centric approach helped Ola thrive in the competitive market and can be an invaluable lesson for entrepreneurs.
- Adaptability: Entrepreneurs should learn to adapt to changing market dynamics and regulations, just as Bhavish did throughout his journey.
- Diversification: Bhavish’s expansion into food delivery and electric vehicles highlights the importance of diversification in sustaining business growth.
- Global Outlook: While starting locally, Bhavish always had a global outlook. This lesson of thinking globally while acting locally can benefit entrepreneurs looking to scale their ventures.
- Creating a Positive Impact: Bhavish has consistently aimed to create a positive societal impact through his ventures, an ethos that entrepreneurs can imbibe.
- Vision for the Future: Entrepreneurs can learn from Bhavish’s forward-thinking approach and his consistent focus on what lies ahead for his company and industry.
The inspiring story of Bhavish Aggarwal is a testament to the power of resilience, innovation, and a relentless pursuit of a vision. His journey from a humble beginning to the helm of a multi-billion dollar company illuminates the path for millions of budding entrepreneurs.
His life underscores that entrepreneurship is not just about building a profitable business, but also about creating value and making a significant impact on society. Bhavish’s vision of transforming urban mobility in India and his dedication to the cause stand as an enduring source of inspiration.
In the dynamic landscape of entrepreneurship, Bhavish’s journey provides valuable lessons on seizing opportunities, remaining resilient amidst challenges, adapting to changing market scenarios, and continuously innovating to stay ahead of the competition.
As we reflect on Bhavish Aggarwal’s inspiring entrepreneurial journey, let us remember that every challenge is an opportunity for innovation, every failure a stepping stone to success, and every vision a potential reality. The story of Bhavish Aggarwal is a reminder to all aspiring entrepreneurs that with perseverance, vision, and an indomitable spirit, nothing is truly unachievable.