In what might come as a big blow to ride-hailing company Ola's leadership, sources told Moneycontrol that Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer Ankit Bhati has distanced himself from the company's day-to-day operations.
"Bhati, [has] stopped coming to the office for more than two months. He has stopped looking into day-to-day matters," said one of three sources who spoke to Moneycontrol.
However, a company spokesperson said in an email, "We strongly deny any such development of Ankit Bhati moving on from Ola; this is completely false and an agenda engineered with vested interests. Ankit Bhati is a co-founder and is core to Ola and its journey. It is therefore a shame that baseless rumour mongering and speculation is being fanned."
Nonetheless, sources said that Bhati has already moved away from the company. Fresh out of IIT, Bombay, Bhati co-founded ANI Technologies along with college senior Bhavish Agarwal in 2010. Since then, Bhati has been heading its technology and backend operations. "It will be a big loss for Ola," the source added.
Another source said that Bhati is distancing himself from daily operations because of a fallout with Agarwal. "Problems between the two started when the Foodpanda and Ola integration started." Ola acquired food delivery startup Foodpanda in 2017 to rival Uber Eats. "There were technology glitches. Bhavish didn’t behave well with Bhati at public meetings."
Yet, Bhati never retaliated. “He is the quiet types, an introvert. He would sit in one corner and code,” said the second source. “He is media shy, hardly attends Ola events, keeps to himself, and preferred watching Agarwal get all the glory than become part of it.”
The problem between the co-founders was visible when Agarwal kept Bhati out of Ola Electric. "Bhati doesn’t hold any stake in Ola Electric, except for a small portion through ANI Technologies," said a third source.
Ola Electric is Agarwal’s moonshot project to build a network of electric charging stations across the country. In end-2018 Agarwal bought 92.5 percent of Ola Electric for Rs 92,500 and within months raised almost $1 billion from SoftBank. "That’s when Bhati decided that it was time to distance himself," said the third source.
Bhati, who did not reply to messages or mails seeking a response, continues to hold stake in ANI Technologies and is on the company’s board.
“Even if he stops coming to office, Bhati will continue to hold stake for the time being,” the source pointed out.
Bhati’s move comes at a time when Ola is struggling to raise funds and is involved in a mind-share and wallet-share battle with arch-rival Uber. According Vumonic Datalabs, an Estonian behavioural analytics startup, Ola holds 55 percent of the ride-share market, while Uber enjoys 45 percent.
Note: The article will be updated as and when we receive a response from Ankit Bhati.