One of India’s youngest billionaires, Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal, is talented⁠— but he was also in the right place at the right time


  • Aggarwal and his team worked out of a 1BHK office in Powai, Mumbai. Between 2011 and 2014.
  • Ten years on, Aggarwal is sitting on the throne of a $10 billion Ola — one of the most valuable startups which has plans to go public.
  • While Aggarwal deserves the credit for Ola’s success, there were also other factors that aided his growth.
  • In a nutshell, he was a brilliant entrepreneur who was in the right business at the right time. This is similar to the example cited by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 bestseller ‘Outliers’.
Ola was born in what was a young e-commerce industry in India. Much like his peers Sachin and Binny Bansal, who started Flipkart, and many other internet startups that mushroomed in the country around that time⁠— Bhavish Aggarwal and his friends from IIT started Olatrips.com that lets people rent cars for trips.

Ten years on, Flipkart has already been bought over by Walmart for a whopping $16 billion, and Aggarwal is sitting on the throne of a $10 billion Ola — one of the most valuable startups which has plans to go public.

While Aggarwal deserves the credit for Ola’s success, there were also other factors that aided his growth. In a nutshell, he was a brilliant entrepreneur who was in the right business at the right time.

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This is similar to the example cited by Malcolm Gladwell in his 2008 bestseller ‘Outliers’. It is not a matter of chance that legends of global technology industry Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Apple’s Steve Ballmer, Google’s Eric Schmidt and many others were born between 1953 and 1956. They were just at the right age, with the necessary qualifications, as the world was ripe for the revolution they were about to unleash.

Here’s how Bhavish Aggarwal’s started Ola and turned it into a $10 billion startup:

2008-2011: The foundation


In 2008, Bhavish Aggarwal left a lucrative job at Microsoft and wanted to do something but he the question was what. He told his father not to worry and shared a rough idea of a ride-sharing venture with his father. For Aggarwal, the idea was born after a cab driver dumped him and his friend in the middle of an intercity trip over low prices.
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Aggarwal and his team worked out of a 1BHK office in Powai, Mumbai. Between 2011 and 2014, Ola was struggling to survive with very few employees and threadbare funds But they knew that the big spike in growth was yet to come, and persevered. Ola trips pivoted itself when Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati realised that the actual problem is inter city rides. At the time, Uber was in its early days in India.

2014-17: The rapid expansion phase
In 2015, Ola was worth $2.5 billion and Aggarwal became the youngest self-made billionaires with ₹2,385 crore net worth. And that was just the starting phase of Ola’s “aggressive expansion” aided by an evolving ecosystem.
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This was the post-crisis era, good ideas could draw big money at cheap interest rates. Moneybags in developed countries, Softbank for example, was looking for pl aces to invest in and that is Ola came with its big promise. Softbank invested $2 billion in 2017. Ola managed to get investments from Tiger Global Management, DST Global, Accel and Sequoia Capital.

Money can only boost valuation, not business

This was also the time that India saw a boom in smartphone users, creating a fertile ground for companies like Ola to grow.
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Then came Reliance Jio with dirt cheap data plans that gave the country’s internet businesses another boost. By 2017, Ola already controlled more than half the market (56%) for radio cabs, and widened its lead over Uber. Despite ruling the market Ola also widened its losses to ₹48.97 billion . At the end of 2017, Ola was worth $3 billion and Aggarwal’s net worth was ₹31 billion.

2018: Ola’s year of consolidation⁠— losses shrank, revenue grew


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In 2018, Ola reported 44% rise in revenue and nearly halved its losses to ₹26 billion. Until then, Ola had already entered the Australian and New Zealand markets and was planning to head to the UK.

It was clear that the startup phase has matured and Aggarwal, worth $549 million at the time. He had bigger plans for Ola which had grown to be a $4.3 billion company.

2019: Bhavish Aggarwal —- worth ₹3.1 billion — is one of the youngest billionaires in India and the biggest cash-out is yet to happen

Bhavish Aggarwal is assured that Ola is going to meet the profit requirement to go public in less than two years. Now, at the age of 34, Aggarwal⁠— now worth ₹31 billion⁠— is 11th youngest self-made billionaire under the age of 40, according to Hurun rich list 2019. And he is yet to make the biggest encashment from nine-year old startup.

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In 2019, Aggarwal declared that Ola shares will be listed in the country’s stock exchanges in less than 2 years. [hyperlink] And when it happens, it is likely to be one of the hottest IPOs the country has seen.

But at no point should success be taken for granted as Uber, Ola’s biggest competitor, learnt from its recent IPO in the US. Uber managed to raise $8.1 billion from investors but in the six months since the listing, th e stock has lost a third of its value. Uber also reported a $5 billion loss in the second quarter following IPO.


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