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Last Updated : Apr 28, 2017 05:13 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Meet Ola‘s first employee, who is now driving company's strategy against Uber

Jivrajka worked as the one-man call centre for the company which provided outstation rentals through phone and a basic website



Living with his two bosses in a one room apartment, was part of Pranay Jivrajka’s job description as the first employee of Ola Cabs when he joined the startup in 2011.
Situated in a Powai bylane near IIT-Bombay, the home-cum-office boasted of a table-chair, a fridge and two mattresses.
“I brought my own mattress. At night we converted it into a bed, during the day it was an office,” says Pranay Jivrajka, founding partner at Ola Cabs, who joined co-founders Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, in building the company from scratch.
Jivrajka worked as the one-man call centre for the company which provided outstation rentals through phone and a basic website.
“I still remember the first customer to whom we provided a cab to commute from Ghatkopar and South Bombay every day,” says Jivrajka, who quit a Mumbai-based consulting firm to join the taxi business.
“My father amusingly said that if driving cabs was what I wanted to do, then Benares was a better market, due to tourists,” says Jivrajka, who was brought up in the temple city.
From the three-member team, Ola is now a 6,000 people company. From 2010, India’s taxi aggregation market has seen a sea change and Jivrajka is now driving strategy for the aggregator which has raised around USD 1.5 billion from investors such as Softbank, DST and Tiger Global.
India's taxi market has seen a sea change
Almost every month this year, metro cities in India witnessed strikes by Ola and Uber drivers.
The arrival of global major Uber in mid-2013 led to major incentives by the US firm to grab already present taxi drivers from existing players Taxi For Sure and Ola Cabs.
As a result, in the early days in 2013-2015, drivers used to earn over Rs 70,000 to Rs 1 lakh per month. Now their earnings have fallen to about Rs 35,000-Rs 40,000 per month.
Many drivers who had graduated to driving cabs from auto rickshaws are going back. Some have started defaulting on EMIs, while others have downgraded expectations from the taxi aggregators.
He is very vocal about Uber’s operations in India. In a blog last year, he mentioned that it is not about foreign vs. local but who is respectful of the local laws and who is disrespectful.
“It is a shame that our competition has to fan a debate of nationalism to hide their identity of being a multi-national,” he wrote.
“When competition (read Uber) entered in India, they launched with a ‘card on file’ payment system. This was in gross violation of RBI regulations, yet they continued this for more than a year,” he had mentioned in the blog.
Jivrajka says that the incentives that drivers used to earn in the past won’t sustain. “Dumping huge capital in this business has also closed the doors of this business to other Indian entrepreneurs in metro cities which is a sad thing. One can easily start a business in tier III towns and be a local player, but to compete with foreign capital in large markets has almost become impossible,” he adds.
In the process, Ola also acquired its local rival Taxi For Sure in 2015 for USD 200 million.
Ola also recently raised USD 300 million from Softbank this year and is in the process to raise another round of close to USD 100 million. However, Jivrajka chooses to remain quiet on the funding plans.
On the other hand, Uber has already announced last year that it will invest USD 3 billion or more in India, after selling its China business to Didi Chuxing.
Bigger vision is to change mobility in India
Meanwhile, Ola has experimented with Ola Cafe, Ola Bikes and Ola Stores in the past. “While some experiments work some don’t. However, our aim is to provide great mobility to Indians. That could also mean taking people and products from point A to point B,” he says.
Ola Bikes is working in four cities of Noida, Gurgaon, Hyderabad and Jaipur. Jivrajka admits that many drivers in metros chose to work with both Ola and Uber.
As per industry estimates, there is about a 70 percent overlap between the two rivals. There are an estimated 150,000 cabs in the Delhi NCR associated with both players followed by about 80,000-100,000 each in Mumbai and Bangalore.
“There are many local innovations that no other player has been able to achieve,” he tells us.
Ola app works on 2G without the internet now
There are two new features that Ola has shared with Moneycontrol exclusively. For a country which is also plagued with a low broadband coverage, the company has launched a tech innovation via which if a coverage drops between any ride, the driver will get informed on an SMS about the address of the pickup of the person.
The other innovation in the algorithm is to solve the frustration which riders feel when they get pooled with someone from the opposite end of the road.
“Now, no driver will get a pool trip if the rider is based on the opposite end of the road where there no U-turn for over a kilometre or there is heavy traffic,” says Jivrajka, who was elevated from the COO position to the level of founding partner and strategy head.harsimran.julka@nw18.com

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First Published on Apr 28, 2017 03:41 pm
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