Ola's Bhavish Aggarwal again takes a potshot at Uber

23 Nov, 2016

Winning in a competitive market is as much about making tactical pronouncements at opportune moments as it is about making the right business decisions at the right time.

It ain't politicians alone who pick ideas or popular beliefs they know will resonate with their target audience and use them against their rivals. Corporations do the same while fighting rivals for market share. Cab aggregators Ola and Uber are a case in point.

Like a smart strategist, Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal leaves no opportunity to remind his target customers about the foreign antecedents of rival Uber and Ola's local roots.

Playing the "nationalist" card, Ola, in June this year, had filed an affidavit in the Karnataka High Court alleging that rival Uber had no respect for the law of the land while harping on its own "indigenous" origin.

In yet another example, he, in a media interview on Wednesday, said while the opportunity for cab aggregators is huge in India but "an American concept" isn't likely to go too far. "Mobility market, in general, is so large in India. I believe there is enough room for several. But if you only get an American concept to India, it will only go so far and not beyond that," Aggarwal said in an interview to Mint on Wednesday.

The dig, clearly, was aimed at Uber.

On the issue of fake rides riling the industry, he again took a thinly veiled swipe at his rival: "We have strong technology, algorithms and data sciences in place. Our fake rides have come down to almost zero… they could have moved on to (the) competition's platform."

Ola and Uber are engaged in an intense battle for share in the fast growing cab-hailing market in India and like Coca Cola and Pepsi in pre-digital era, both rivals claim leadership in the market.

In June, Uber India CEO Amit Jain, for instance, had claimed that Uber is as big as Ola in India with a 50% market share in terms of trips completed by the two companies. Jain's claim resonated with a similar assertion by Eric Alexander, president of business in Asia for Uber, who, in March, had said Uber would overtake Ola in 30 days.

Their comments came after it became public that Japanese telecom and internet conglomerate SoftBank, which is the largest investor in Ola, had, in a regulatory filing in August last year, claimed that the company enjoyed a commanding 85% share in India's cab-hailing market.

The jury is still out on whether the war of words between rival brands helps them build a stronger connect with their customers but there is no denying that such asides keep their brand names buzzing in the industry.

To be sure, the duo doesn't rely on condemning each other alone to build their case. For instance, in the interview mentioned above, Ola's Aggarwal also spoke of his company's growth strategy and how it was well on its way to profitability. He said Ola Select was already profitable and in many cities, the operations were gradually breaking even.

Aggarwal also said Ola Share, its fast growing category, will contribute to majority of its business within a year.

Ola CEO's latest comments come just weeks ahead of SoftBank chairman and managing director Masayoshi Son's planned visit to India. had reported on Monday that Son is scheduled to visit India early December and the Japanese telecom and Internet conglomerate is expected to make a few high-profile announcements.

Techcircle has learnt that Son is expected to announce a large funding round in Ola during the visit. Softbank and Ola, however, have not confirmed this.

Last month, The Times of India had reported that ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which runs Ola, was in talks with its existing investors, including SoftBank, and the US-based General Motors, to raise around $500 million in a fresh round of funding.

Founded by Indian entrepreneurs Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati in 2010, Ola has so far raised close to $1.2 billion from marquee investors such as Tiger Global Management and Matrix Partners.