Headstart Talks: Bhavish Agarwal, Co-Founder and CEO of Ola Cabs

Ola CabsOla Cabs, one of the fastest growing startups in the Indian Internet and  consumer space has sparked a new market opportunity . You might have met the man behind Ola Cabs at Startup Saturday Mumbai, if not, Headstart caught up with Bhavish Agarwal (Co-Founder & CEO, Ola Cabs) to talk about Starting up and the journey with Ola Cabs so far.


Please tell us something about yourself and what you did before Olacabs

I graduated from IIT Bombay (IIT-B) with an engineering degree in computer science and worked with the Microsoft Research India for a couple of years However, I always wanted to start something of my own and this made me look at alternatives. Having been a consumer of cab services, and not always a happy one at that, I had always thought about how with a little thought it was possible to considerably enhance customer experience. I also realised, given my technology background, that these pain points could be addressed using technology. Soon I came up with the idea for Olacabs and started up in December 2010 along with Ankit Bhati, a fellow alumnus from IIT-B.

What is the vision behind Olacabs? What pain point are you addressing?

The vision behind Olacabs is to provide hassle-free, reliable and technology-efficient car rental service to Indians. In a deeply fragmented and highly unpredictable market of car/taxi services, there is a significant shortage of easy and comfortable on-ground options for transportation, be it within a city or outside. Also, the inventory utilisation among small cab operators (ownership of 2-5 cabs) in India is an abysmal 40-50%. Cab owners benefit from the Ola Cabs network and technology platform and that in turn helps them procure customers and enhance their income through better inventory utilisation. In Mumbai, inventory utilisation levels have gone up to 70% for cars that are on the Olacabs platform. Olacabs provides convenient, transparent and quick cab services, both car rental and point-to-point, by leveraging technology to provide a uniform and highly customer-centric experience.

Being an aggregator, how are you planning to improve taxi experience by not providing it yourself but by depending on the same unreliable taxi operators?

We are India’s first online aggregator of car rental services. We integrate car transportation, be it point-to-point services within a city, hour-based rental services or outstation travel, onto a technology platform, ensuring convenient, transparent and quick service fulfillment for the customer. Not having our own fleet actually works to our advantage. We only select cars which meet our defined standards to be a part of our fleet. We also conduct regular service audits, train and certify drivers and do thorough background checks of both operators and drivers before partnering with them. Customers can access us, on the web, through a mobile app or through a customer service centre. Our customers vouch for the superior experience they have had.

How do you put technology to use for scalability?

Bhavish Agarwal, Ola Cabs
Bhavish Agarwal, Co-Founder & CEO - Ola Cabs

Our aim is to use technology to bring efficiency and superior customer experience (in par with the hospitality industry) to the car rental industry. We endeavour to bring convenience, price transparency and standardization to consumers booking car rentals and cab services. There is also a freely downloadable mobile app using which customers can book cabs and monitor their position by the built-in GPS system. We have a dedicated customer care centre to address all queries of our customers. Technology has enabled us to adhere to the 10 minute service level agreement (SLA) which we provide to all our customers.

We also use ‘heat maps’ to efficiently manage the demand and supply of cabs in various parts of a city at different points in time. The traffic alerts using information from various sources including social media help in guiding the drivers to reach the destination in the shortest possible time. Both these help in effective inventory management for Olacabs. We plan to scale quickly as we have an asset-light and technology-focused business model. Also, with the capital raised from Tiger Global, we plan to significantly ramp up our technology infrastructure.

What were the major hurdles you faced in securing funding from Tiger Global or others for that matter?

The challenge was to convince Tiger Global and other investors about the robustness of our business model and the fact that Olacabs is here to stay (and scale), in a market that is highly fragmented and has a few players providing similar services. However, Tiger saw the value in partnering with us and we are thankful to them as well as our angel investors who showed faith in us.

How has the response been so far? Can you cite some statistics as well? Do you see Olacabs going pan-India in the next couple of years? 

The response so far has been great. There are customers who use us multiple times for point-to-point services, in a day. We intend to bring all car operators and taxis pan-India on to a single technology platform to enable real time inventory distribution. Currently, Olacabs operates over 700 cabs in Mumbai with a view of expanding its services to ten Indian cities in a year’s time. We will enter New Delhi and Bangalore shortly. We will be present in 10 cities and have 8,000 bookings per day, by the end of the year. In each city we will build operational teams that will take care of the ‘local thinking’ and local implementation.

Any word of advice for our readers and budding entrepreneurs?

All I would say is that today India presents innumerable opportunities to make a difference as an entrepreneur and to participate actively in the India growth story. So, just follow your passion. But at the same time, be objective and learn from your failures, as you take risks. It also helps to have a co-founder with complimentary skill sets.


  1. bhavesh, i am daily regular constant user of ola, all times and everywhr..
    yes to me it is all fine
    i have one personal query.. i discuss o i come to know… i hear from various drivers and owners of car with various schemes and startegies with soem having to give you commission and some getting absolute free ride on your cost.and deals and intresting stuff!
    its none of my business as long as i get good service everyday, but my curiosity is – it is helping you with ‘profits’ only when your business with ola cabs is concerened
    just a general inquisitiveness

  2. Hi Bhavish,

    This is Ishwarya Thiyagarajan from Atchayam Fooodbox(Chennai).We are actually facilitators having first automated food store in India. We had an experience with ola and came to know that you have introduced ola autos. We are planning to have an business with ola autos for carrying our food. Can you reply me @ +91-8939840797.
    Thanks in advance.

  3. Bhavesh First of all i thankful to you i am stay in Non metro city i.e. jabalpur MP but such kind of services you started this is challenging and appreciated we dont have solution apart from auto now we can have comfort and safety ride with family and this is really possible due to you i congrates you to success and achieve your goal and we indian can proud of you to contribute your knowledge skills for citizens, i am continuous using your services and also sharing experience to people who dont know about the OLA .. OLA Bhavesh and Bhati ji …

  4. We are a regular user of ola cab and it is really cheaper and a money saving.I want to take the franchise at my city and can’t find any useful site to check the details.
    It would b really kind if u tell me the procedure.
    Thank you.

  5. dear olacabs,

    I have been reading you enter profile in this really appreciable because the way your growing and your service is very good and transparency in metro cites like Hyderabad and secunderabad but coming to small cites like Rajahmundary your service is good but your donot capture the Rajahmundary market reason is your has been fixing the boarder lines like 30km of the cite but around the cite up to 70 kms 246 towns are there in this area also very potentiality and they come to Rajahmunday very frequently in this your people dont under stand that s why your taken this decision .I am giving advice only its not comment on your service why I write this mail because I am using you ola cabs very frequentyly but to day I call to your call center to ride some where means up to 34 kms of our cite but your people said ride has not been availble due to 30 kms limit that why I take onther travels and they are enjoying onemore reason I write this mail now rajahmunday your competer also there so that I have been taken their service and now I am enjoying their service and swift to their service.

    Thanking you,

  6. i am fade up with OLA services , every time when i booked a cab , due to some technical or not proper location driver is not come on time . once we cancel the ride by OLA company every ride charged 50 RS /. when i was called to customer case , customer care executive told me that , please call real time once you charged the cancellation fee . in Mumbai hos is it be possible to call for waiver.

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