A fascinating scenario is unfolding in the fast-growing taxi aggregation space in India, on the lines of the one playing out between homegrown giant Flipkart and global behemoth Amazon in the ecommerce sector. Ola, co-founded by Bhavish Aggarwal and his IIT-Bombay batchmate Ankit Bhati, has indeed come a long way from the days they were in the business of selling weekend holidays and outstation car rentals. Today, valued at $5 billion, Ola is the leading player in the Indian cab-hailing business, having used technology smartly to build a formidable company in just three to four years. But, as in ecommerce, the landscape in taxi aggregation is also changing dramatically. For one, global major Uber, which senses a huge opportunity in the 300-million-trips-a-day Indian market, is now firmly entrenched in India and getting stronger. Add to that some regulatory hurdles around licensing, surge pricing and pollution control norms, and you have a cocktail of challenges both Ola and rival Uber have to contend with.
The first few years for Aggarwal and Bhati have been about building the business and adding value at every step. But Uber’s entry in 2013 has changed the game for Ola, and will continue to test every bit of its founders’ resolve. So far, Ola has shown it has the gumption and the firepower to keep making improvements to its service on multiple fronts—whether it is through constant innovations or new services, like luxury offering Ola Lux. The next few years, then, will be all about tackling competition, negotiating regulatory changes and growing the business at the same time. It’s going to take all of Aggarwal’s entrepreneurial drive to ensure Ola continues to be the leader. Customers and marquee investors are watching closely. And Ola has shown it learns quickly from mistakes and can make course corrections equally swiftly. As Aggarwal tells Editor (Technology) Harichandan Arakali: “There were so many missteps and wrong decisions that we’ve made along the way, and we learn every day at every level—that is the essence of entrepreneurship.”
This issue also brings you the Forbes listing of the World’s Most Valuable Brands. These 100 celebrated brands are drawn from 16 countries and 19 industries. Not surprisingly, the highest growth since last year has been seen by Facebook, whose brand value rose 44 percent. I would also urge you to read the amazing story of how the Israel Defence Forces’ clandestine Unit 8200 has turned out to be one of the finest schools for entrepreneurship, spawning a number of frontline tech startups. That and much more await you in the following pages. Happy reading.
Editor, Forbes India
(This story appears in the 24 June, 2016 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)