Not too long ago, Ola held a family day. It isn’t unusual for a startup to hold these kinds of all-hands meetings. It encourages team building and the company addresses the aims and goals of the year. This one was similar. There were meetings, dinner and a few went out for drinks at a popular Bengaluru watering hole. But then, some of the senior staffers who were part of this bonding session felt it to be unusual. That’s because Ola had not held one for over four years. So, why now?

Perhaps it had to do with Vishal Kaul. The new COO.

The Ken emailed a detailed questionnaire to Ola. There was no reply.

The family day was as much about bonding, as about laying the grounds for a new reporting structure, easing colleagues into taking in the change in leadership. Employees suggest this change has been brought about by investors. Those who believe that Ola must tidy the ship and prep towards an IPO. Not today, but sometime in the distant future.

As things stand today, Ola is valued at over $3 billion and perhaps, it would be fair not to consider it a startup anymore. The business model is there, there’s a cash pile to light up, scale, glitzy public relations; simply put, Ola is a technology company now. And with its new hires and power structures, it is looking more like one; every passing day. This corporate structure will also play a part in stemming the drop in bookings that the industry recorded in the first quarter of 2017, compared to the last quarter in 2016, according to a RedSeer report. Besides this, Ola is a key company in SoftBank’s portfolio. The Japanese technology major predicts that the Indian cab market will grow to $7 billion by 2020. It makes Ola an important part of the puzzle. And like every big company, it is the internal structure, which will mould strategy and find a way to take on Uber.

So that’s where we start. Who does what? Why?

The structure of power

Level 1: In Aggarwal’s innermost orbit and run operations in Ola

Pallav Singh: Pallav Singh, the interim CFO and VP operations, was Bhavish Aggarwal’s junior at IIT-Bombay. When Aggarwal went to work at Microsoft after graduating from IIT, Singh tried his hand at different multinationals. He returned to Aggarwal’s side a little after Ola was founded. Aggarwal relies on Singh the most. The two discuss most major decisions. Singh’s usefulness and proximity to Aggarwal was exemplified in 2015 when he was parachuted into steering TaxiForSure (TFS), a company Ola bought out, when it faced a crisis of leadership.


Patanjali Pahwa

Patanjali has spent over seven years in journalism. He last worked at Business Standard as Principal Correspondent, where he wrote on startups, e-commerce companies and venture capital. He has worked at an array of institutions, which include Forbes India, Caravan and Outlook Business. He is a Mumbaikar, born and brought up. Patanjali did his BSc in IT from Mumbai University and then got his journalism degree from IIJNM in Bangalore. He is enamoured by Ernest Hemingway and Tom Waits and may try to sneak in references to them in his stories.

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