Ola founder Bhavish Aggarwal explains why he is not chasing rival Uber's autonomous cars

  • Our business model is different from Uber, and it is more sustainable, the Ola founder said.
  • Ola’s strategy is to go electric first and then think of more advanced technologies.
  • Part of the strategy may be driven by the planned initial public offering in the next couple of years.
Indian mobility space has been defined by Ola vs Uber for far too long now, and this is something that Ola founder Bhavish Aggarwal too is aware of. From their business models to their expansion plans, the moves of both the companies are more often than not compared at each stage.

While Ola took advantage of Uber’s license failure in London, Uber is leading the stage when it comes to advancement in bike taxis, autonomous vehicles and more.

But Aggarwal is not concerned. Speaking at the MEA-PIC Geo-Economic Conference, Aggarwal said that Ola is very different from its peers and autonomous is not on the radar for them right now.

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“In a broad sense, we want to build the future of this industry on a global stage – that would mean electrification which is a key thing for us. Autonomous less so, it’s less relevant in India and even in the global stage is in its very early days. We would work with partners vs doing the whole thing ourselves. We also want to take our kind of ride sharing global, which is much more elaborate, citizen centric, much more community centric than what some of our peers do,” he said.

However, Ola is also working on futuristic technologies on its own. In 2019, it launched an Advanced Technology Center in the Bay Area of San Francisco – the homeground of Uber. It hired engineers across domains like Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, data sciences, engineering and product development.

The Indian unicorn has also been investing heavily into expansion in newer markets. And that also means more cash being burnt. But Ola, which is headed for an IPO in the next two years, is focussed on reducing its losses. In the last financial year ending March 2019, Ola’s standalone losses were at ₹1,160 crore – which is half of the ₹2,676.7 crore year before.

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Meanwhile, its global rival Uber is still reeling with losses, even after it went public last year. But Aggarwal believes this once again brings it back to how ‘different’ Ola is. “We believe we have built a much more sustainable business model. Our business model is different from what an Uber is. In India, you see it in the variety of services and we are much deeper in the country, we have a very different supply-side model and we think about some of the future concepts and technologies fundamentally different from how some of our competitors would think of. And that reflects in our economics; it's much more sustainable than our peers,” he said.

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