Ola orders clean-up drive amid allegations of fraud against top exec

Ola orders clean-up drive amid allegations of fraud against top exec
Photo Credit: Reuters
16 Feb, 2018

In a major embarrassment to homegrown taxi aggregator Ola, Yugantar Saikia, the company’s human resources head and chief administrative officer, has allegedly been involved in corruption worth millions of dollars, a technology news site reported.

According to the report, the top management has immediately swung into action and has initiated an internal probe into the allegations. Citing unnamed people, FactorDaily said Saikia, who allegedly accepted kickbacks from vendors, has been asked not to report for work. The company has also seized several items including documents and his laptop.

Besides, Ola has also hired one of the ‘Big Four’ audit firms to lead the internal probe, the report added.

According to one person quoted in the report, Saikia received kickbacks from an employment agency. “This must have been going on for at least two years, hundreds of new hires every year. I estimate annual monies earned through recruitment alone to be at least Rs 5-6 crore. And, this is just the fee paid to an outfit created for the purpose.”

The fraud goes beyond human resourcing and involves multiple departments, including procurement, administration and IT. The estimated value of the fraud, according to the report, could amount to a few million dollars.

Following the incident, the company is working on a clean-up drive, including a total overhaul of the processes.

An Ola spokesperson confirmed the development. “There is an internal investigation which is currently on and one cannot give further details at the moment,” he said.

Saikia, had over 16 years of experience in setting up and scaling people and infrastructure functions for large businesses, before joining Ola in February 2015.

In his previous assignment, he led the India operations at FICO for customer growth and customer services worldwide, managing M&A integrations, and setting up the APAC landscape for the company. An alumnus of XLRI, Jamshedpur, Saikia also had stints in American Express and E&Y.

The ride-hailing unicorn had recently made its first overseas move with the launch of its services in Australia.

Founded in 2011, Ola claims to have a user base of 125 million and a network of over one million driver-partners across 110 cities in India, besides facilitating one billion rides a year.

The company had raised $1.1 billion from investors, including Tecent and SoftBank, last year, and was in the process of raising another $1 billion.

It had also acquired Foodpanda India recently and had committed to invest $200 million in the food ordering business.