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Exclusive | Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal to focus on engineering and product, GR Arun Kumar to lead operations

Ola was last valued at $7.3 billion when it raised $139 million in its Series J round.

April 13, 2022 / 01:39 PM IST
Ola founder Bhavish Aggarwal (Illustration: Moneycontrol)

Ola founder Bhavish Aggarwal (Illustration: Moneycontrol)

Ola founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal will step back from day-to-day operations to focus more on engineering functions, team building, and products, apart from focusing on long-term strategic projects such as two-wheelers, cars, and innovations in quick commerce and international expansion.

GR Arun Kumar, who joined less than a year ago and is currently the Group CFO of Ola and CFO of Ola Electric will now drive day-to-day operations across the group.

The significant change of guard comes at a time when Ola is in talks for a fresh round of funding, Ola Electric scooters have come under fire over quality issues and an employee churn at various levels in the group.

Moneycontrol has viewed an internal note that Bhavish Aggarwal sent on these plans.

"To drive scale, speed, and quality, we need to execute with deep attention to detail and every team has to work together in sync with everyone else. And in parallel, we need to keep innovating into new and exciting opportunities so as to have a larger impact," Aggarwal said in the note.

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"I’ll be spending more time with all engineering functions, team building, and on product. I’ll also be increasing my focus on our longer-term strategic projects including new 2W products, our car project, innovations in quick commerce, electrifying ride-hailing, our cell R&D and factory, international expansion, and building out our Pune tech center and the Futurefoundry UK, and more," he added.

He further said, "To ensure that we have adequate focus on the execution of the current businesses, I am expanding Arun GR’s role to help me drive the day-to-day operations across the group."

"Arun joined Ola a year ago and through the last year, he’s been extremely impactful. As CFO, leading the entire manufacturing, supply chain, S&OP, construction for Ola Electric, working with everyone across mobility, auto retail, quick commerce and also running OFS as interim CEO, he has been very effective," he added.

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In his expanded role. Aggarwal said Arun will work with all its leaders across teams to drive our key metrics, lead reviews across businesses, and key cross-team projects, effectively making him the most powerful executive after Bhavish.

The announcement comes as the SoftBank-backed firm, which was planning to list on the public markets this year, now plans to raise a new round of funding at a lower valuation, signifying a sharp reversal in fortune for startups, after a record 2021 that saw sky-high valuations in the public and private markets. It has also acquired Avail Finance, a firm promoted by Aggarwal's younger brother Ankush Aggarwal, a move that has raised red flags on governance and probity.

Ola was last valued at $7.3 billion when it raised $139 million in its Series J round, led by Edelweiss PE, IIFL, and Sunil Munjal-led Hero Enterprises, in what seemed like the last round of funding before its IPO. Before the $139 million, it raised $500 million from Warburg Pincus and Temasek, giving early backers Tiger and Matrix a part exit in the company. Founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal had said that Ola plans to go public in the first half of 2022 at a Reuters Next conference in December last year.

Aggarwal also outlined plans to create a super app that would offer not just mobility but also loans and microinsurance. Ola has also been investing heavily in its instant grocery delivery business, Ola Dash, as it seeks to build services beyond ride-hailing, which took a hit post-pandemic. Global rival Uber, for instance, earns more from food delivery than its core rides business.

The company has witnessed a spate of exits in recent months, including its Chief Financial Officer Swayam Saurabh, Chief Operating Officer Gaurav Porwal, HR head Rohit Munjal and General Counsel Sandeep Chowdhury,

Aggarwal is the founder of two unicorns- the ride-hailing business Ola and Ola Electric, which has ambitious plans to disrupt the electric two-wheeler market. It had started the deliveries of its electric scooters in December last year, a delay from its initial plans of an October delivery timeline.

While COVID-induced lockdowns battered its ride-hailing business in the last year, it has been making a recovery of late as India has opened up significantly in the last few months.
Chandra R Srikanth is Editor- Tech, Startups, and New Economy
first published: Apr 12, 2022 08:17 am
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