By 2016, we plan to be present in 100 cities, from 19 today: Bhavish Aggarwal

Written by Sayan Chakraborty | Updated: Oct 30 2014, 07:48am hrs
Olacabs announced on Tuesday that is has raised $210 million from Japanese telecom and internet major SoftBank, by far the largest round in this segment in India. In an interview to FEs Sayan Chakraborty, Olacabs co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal speaks about plans to expand to 100 cities by March 2016 and how it took a lead over competitors by leveraging technology.

How did you convince SoftBank to invest

The value that SoftBank saw in us was that we are a technology company in the mobile internet space. The transport sector is a huge and under-penetrated market. We have a 60% market share with 33,000 cabs and growing faster than the competition. The taxi segment in India is a $10-billion industry and the scope is huge.

What are your expansion plans

We are pretty aggressive about launching in new cities. In October, we launched our services in Chandigarh, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Nashik, Coimbatore, Amritsar and Ludhiana. We are present in 19 cities. By March 2016, we plan to be present in 100 cities. There is a market for each category in every city.

Olacabs rates are on a par with autors. Are you paying from your own pocket to stay competitive, the way e-tailers bear discounts

With an increase in scale, we have been able to drive more efficient operations. The idle time for cars is less and utilisation rate is high. That is what enables us to lower the rates for consumers, not really a price war. As we scale, we will be able to drive the business with more efficiency, which will allow us to pass on more benefits to the consumers. We give tactical discounts, but it is not that we give discounts on each booking. We can turn profitable today if we want, but we are investing and focusing more on growth by expanding.

What value proposition does the tier II/III cities have

Tier II/III cities provide tremendous opportunities as many of them lack proper autorickshaws or even bus services. We are already going deep into the tier II and III cities. Most of the cities where we launched our services last month are such cities. They are the fastest growing cities for us, faster than Bangalore and Mumbai when they were that size.

How are you faring against homegrown rivals like TaxiForSure and Meru and an international player like Uber

We are much bigger than the competition put together. We have been very focused on leveraging technology much better and faster than competitors. Compared to Uber, we have a much local business model. We allow the customers to pay in cash as well as use our prepaid wallet. We allow them to book through call centres and pre-book for future travels. As for domestic competitors, we launched both our app and wallet before them. Every month, we are growing 40-50%.

What kind of recruitment will you do to keep pace with your growth plans

We will hire more than 200 engineers in the next couple of quarters. For expansion to new cities, we will be hiring a lot of management people. In the next couple of quarters, we will be adding more than a 1,000 people.

How has the mobile app fared

Mobile accounts more than 75% of our bookings. We will continue to add new features to our mobile app. The latest feature was Ola money wallet which got a very good response.

Is the demand more than the supply in this segment

Definitely. To address the growing demand, we do a lot of work on the driver ecosystem to enable more and more driver entrepreneurs to grow. We have partnerships with car manufacturers, financial service providers, car insurance players, repair centres, etc. Though we work with rental agencies, a large part of our fleet comprises individual drivers.

Will Olacabs look at acquisitions Do you plan to become an angel investor

Now that we have significant capital with us, we will definitely be looking at acquisitions. As for investing in my personal capacity, if there are interesting opportunities, then yes. I am a consumer internet entrepreneur and I understand this space pretty well. But right now, I am occupied with running Olacabs.