Ola, the SoftBank-backed rival to Uber in India, has strengthened its position after landing the support of two of India’s most seasoned and influential business figures.
The company, which raised $400 million in fresh investment this April, welcomed an undisclosed investment from Ratan Tata — one of India’s most successful businessmen, and Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons — last week, and today it revealed that Arun Sarin, formerly CEO of Vodafone, is its new independent director.
The backing of Tata, who has increased his presence in India’s startup scene through investments in Xiaomi, Alibaba-backed Paytm, and other companies, is a “huge endorsement” for Ola, according to co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal.
“We look forward to learning from Mr. Tata’s experience that will help us build a world class organization from India,” Aggarwal commented.
Sarin’s involvement will see him advise on overall business strategy. Previously head of Vodafone for five years, the 60-year-old said he plans to help Ola become “one of India’s largest businesses”.
“Ola is creating immense value in the transportation and mobility space in India. The company has scaled rapidly to benefit customers and partners using technology and innovative business models,” he added in a statement.
Battling Uber is no easy thing, and Ola has quite the task on its hands. While it maintains a territorial advantage — the company is closing in on 200 cities served across India — Uber has pushed its expansion in India up a few gears lately. The U.S. firm just moved into seven new ‘tier-two’ cities to take it to 18 locations in total across India — which is now its second largest market behind only the U.S. — while it just announced plans for a $50 million support center in Hyderabad, where it is working in partnership with authorities to develop new regulations for ride-sharing services.