Ola Faces Executive Churn Amid Strike in India

India’s most popular mobile application for booking cabs is currently undergoing major leadership shakeups in a market already ripe with turmoil.

In the span of just a few days, ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd., operating under the name Ola, announced a slew of executive changes — including the hire of a new chief data scientist, the resignation of a lead investor on its executive board, and news broke about the departure of both the company’s chief marketing officer and chief financial officer.

All the while, cab drivers on Ola’s platform, as well as its rival Uber, called for a strike in major metropolitan cities.

Ola declined to comment for this story.

This week began with news that board member Jonathan Bullock was stepping down from Ola and Snapdeal, both of which are SoftBank Group’s most prominent companies in the Japanese firm’s portfolio, of which Bullock is chief operating officer. Tokyo, Japan-based Softbank Group is a multinational telecommunications and internet corporation.

Bullock resigned from the boards of both startups due to “personal reasons and other obligations,” according to a regulatory filing.

Drivers associated with taxi apps Ola and its rival Uber, called for a strike in major metro cities of India this week. / Photo by Ola

“Please be informed that due to other obligations, I will no longer continue as a director of ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd. and wish to be relieved of my duties and responsibilities with effect from Jan. 16, 2017,” Bullock said in the filing. “Accordingly, I hereby tender my resignation which may be accepted at the earliest.”

SoftBank Group recently announced it recorded a $350-million loss on its investments in both Snapdeal and Ola, but contributed this largely to the appreciation of Japan’s Yen against local currency rather than a markdown of the value of shareholding in both companies.

However, without specification, the U.S.-based investment firm Vanguard Group marked down the value of its stake in Ola last week by 41%, bringing down Ola’s valuation to an estimated $3 billion compared with its peak valuation of $5 billion between April and November in 2015.

This all follows rumors that began in early February that Ola’s Chief Financial Officer Rajiv Bansal and Chief Marketing Officer Raghuvesh Sarup were going to be leaving the Bengaluru, India-based startup. At the time, Ola said it would not “comment on speculation,” but since then multiple sources at the startup have confirmed the top-level churn to other publications.

Bansal was one of the biggest high-profile hires at the firm, having come from Infosys, an Indian technology and consulting firm that is currently embattled in its own problems — including concerns about the severance package offered to him. Bansal leaves a little over a year after joining Ola.

Sarup, who also joined Ola in January of last year, was previously working as managing director of Microsoft India.

Pallav Singh, who is currently senior vice president and head of Ola Money, was given the additional responsibility as interim CFO, according to Tech Times of India.

Dr. Badri Raghavan is Ola’s new chief data scientist. / Photo by Ola

Additionally, Ola named Dr. Badri Raghavan as its chief data scientist on Feb. 9.

Raghavan is tasked with utilizing the enormous amount of data generated by over a million trips taken on the platform every day, according to the company.

Ola and Uber are currently in a heated battle for dominance in India, and drivers for both companies halted work in Hyderabad and Bangalore, India, earlier this week. Today, drivers called for a strike in the national capital region of Delhi. Driver complaints consist of excessive supply and low demand with low income from shared rides; many of them have bought cars on loan.

 

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