“ The key is catching the pulse of the customer and going above and beyond to ensure not just customer satisfaction but customer delight as well. ”
Those who are big on mobility apps truly love Ola and know quite a lot about the Founder Bhavish Aggarwal. However, getting to know the other pillars of the company is interesting enough. Hence, for the very special September issue, Exhibit got a chance to obtain a sneak peak into the inner-workings of the Founding partner of this super big and successful Indian startup – Mr Pranay Jivrajka. We caught up with him in an exclusive and insightful interview and found some very interesting takeaways!
Exhibit: Mr. Jivrajka, can you trace the journey of how you along with the other co-founders came to form Ola – the most popular mobility apps in the country?
Pranay Jivrajka: With the drive to make a real difference in the transportation landscape of India, co-founders Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati started Ola’s journey realising the massive need for organised personal transportation, which was almost nonexistent back then. I joined as the first employee, and the journey ever since has been nothing short of an exhilarating and an enriching one.
We built the market ground-up and organised it at scale using technology with a hyperlocal approach in mind. The Indian market is very different from the west. It’s not homogeneous; there’s no uniform middle class or supply equality, hence, we segmented the market and built the right use cases for the right demographic. India’s per capita car ownership is just about 3% as against that of the US which is as high as 70%. We cannot reach the kind of car ownership that the west has with the existing infrastructure. Instead, we should work on the existing infrastructure and build shared mobility infrastructure to ensure every Indian has access to mobility.
On an average, over 300 million rides take place in India on a daily basis. We want to be a part of all of these trips, add value to each of them, and every trip that every Indian takes!
Exhibit: What was the journey like to obtain funds for Ola?
PJ: When we started out with Ola in 2010, raising funds for a consumerfacing product that is capital intensive was not easy. But, the value proposition of the product and service, the gaps in transportation it addresses and the fact that it has potential to be used not just everyday but possibly multiple times everyday, coupled with the passion and vigour to solve for a billion Indians helped us garner investor support.
Exhibit: What hurdles did Ola have to overcome on the way to being set up in India?
PJ: India’s transportation landscape is very unique, not just as a country as a whole but also each state, each, city, each corner has unique needs and challenges which call for a hyperlocal approach. The challenges in metro cities are usually centred on traffic congestion, lack of solutions for the rising population and end-to-end connectivity. In smaller towns, the challenges centre around non existence of transport solutions due to the lack of infrastructure.
More than a challenge or a hurdle, we saw this as an opportunity to build a solution ground up; a nimble platform that caters to the transportation landscape that changes every 100kms with the right solutions. We work closely with the governments at the centre and the state to build on existing infrastructure such as Kaali Peelis and auto rickshaws. Similarly, by extending our seamless mobility services at key transportation junctions such as railway stations and metro stations, we have successfully turned challenges into opportunities to consistently serve the needs of our customers.
With smartphone usage picking up in rural India, the country will be better connected on their mobile phones. What we want to do is to make sure that this connectivity reflects on their connectivity options in terms of mobility and help India advance on our PM’s vision of Digital India.
Exhibit: Looking at the existing and budding mobility apps, how do you tackle competition facing Ola? How do you try to set Ola apart from the competitors?
PJ: Several localised innovations have helped us to improve customer and driver partner experience, grow faster across categories and across geographies. In a short span of time, Ola has expanded its presence to 110 cities with a fleet of 700,000 vehicles. We don’t shy away from experimenting; our growth is the result of some bold and some well-thought steps. We have scaled everything ground up, learning from the unique insights we have from different parts of the country and building localised solutions. Market share is important and we have consistently been the Industry leaders. More importantly, we believe in creating lasting value for customers and driver partners. This approach has helped to stay ahead of competition and focus on innovation at all times.
Our growth story is further strengthened by strategic partnerships that have created synergies into the expanse of the ecosystem. We have partnered with leading car manufacturers, financiers to bring the best of options available to our driver partners with minimum hassles through various options like discounted car buying, leasing, etc. We also have tie ups with leading platforms such as BookMyShow, Zomato, and Practo amongst others. Customers can book cabs straight from these apps, alongside their event be it a movie, a visit to the restaurant or an appointment with the doctor, making their mobility seamless and convenient. Our tie ups with Qualcomm, Apple Music, Mahindra, and other partners for Ola Play have helped enhance the product to provide the customer with a unique backseat experience that they can control. This is the world’s first connected car platform for ridesharing. Ola is also integrated into Google and Siri on iOS, giving customers an assisted experience of booking their cabs.
“ On an average, over 300 million rides take place in India on a daily basis, we want to be a part of all of these trips, and add value to each of them, and every trip that every Indian takes! ”
Exhibit: Currently, India is witnessing a great boom with regards to the Startup scene. What are your thoughts about India as a Startup hub?
PJ: As one of the fastest growing economies in the world, India presents tremendous opportunities to innovate.Within the transportation sector itself, rapid urbanisation, smart cities, and lack of organised transport across tier 2 and 3 towns of India present a huge opportunity to provide streamlined Internetbased, on-demand mobility services. These coupled with increased smartphone and Internet penetration and availability of only about 32 cars per 1000 people in India, the scope to provide personal transportation services becomes much wider. Take for example the financial technology sector- digital payment startups have changed the way Indians transact today, including bringing a large section of the population online by providing them with simple solutions for dayto-day transactions.
The key is catching the pulse of the customer and going above and beyond to to ensure not just customer satisfaction but customer delight as well.
Exhibit: On a personal level, how big a consumer are you of technology and the Internet? Which are your go to sites and apps?
PJ: Ola definitely tops the list as mobility is a part of everyday life. I also own a smartwatch, use apps to organise my day and to catch up on news but nowadays, I consume news on the go on Ola Play.
Exhibit: What do you like to spend time doing when you are not working?
PJ: I enjoy spending time with startup enthusiasts and founders. On a personal front, I like playing drums, catching up with friends, and travel a bit as well.
Exhibit: Where do you see the e-auto scene in India heading in the next 5 years?
PJ: The government has already set the path and agenda for electric vehicles in India – the 2030 EV vision that aims to transform India into a 100% EV nation. Only 13 years away, the vision aims to rid the country of vehicular pollution. Ola, as the country’s most popular ridesharing platform, has laid the foundation by launching a 200-vehicle electric fleet in Nagpur. In the next 5 years, we will see the entire ecosystem come together to work towards the vision.
Exhibit: What is next on the cards for Ola?
PJ: The next level of growth will be propelled by technology and innovation like never before. We intend to go deeper into tier 2 and 3 cities where there is a genuine need for transportation. We are also extremely confident and excited about scaling Ola Play, world’s first connected car platform that has changed the ridesharing experience in India.
- Best piece of advice given to you: When there is doubt, then there is no doubt.
- Most unique gadget you’ve come across so far: Rewind from Witworks.
- Your most useful gadget that’s not a smartphone or laptop: My power bank – can keep my phone up for a week!
- Describe Ola in a statement: Entrepreneurial, innovative, and experimental.
- Luck or hard work: Hard Work.
- Recipe for a perfect business: Stay agile, build a team that believes in the vision, understand your market, and build solutions ground up.
- If you could dirty your hands on any other industry, which would it be: Education.
- Advice you’d give to budding entrepreneurs: Stay nimble.