SoftBank-backed Ola’s COO and CFO to exit firm amid its plans to go public

SoftBank-backed Ola’s COO and CFO to exit firm amid its plans to go public


Mobility company Ola’s chief financial officer Swayam Saurabh and chief operating officer Gaurav Porwal are leaving the company, according to industry sources. These developments come at a time when the SoftBank-backed company’s core ride-hailing unit is planning to go public and for which it raised $500 million from Warburg Pincus and Temasek in July this year. These investment firms had partnered with the company founder Bhavish Aggarwal for this round.

“There is a lot of pressure from the top at the company on executives for deliverables. That is why some of them are leaving,” said a person with direct knowledge about the exits at “Also, Ola’s transportation or ride-hailing business has been badly hit by the pandemic and now a lot of resources are going into Electric.”

The executives are leaving when has new growth plans, including setting up a Rs 2,400-crore electric vehicle facility expected to become the world’s largest two-wheeler factory. Ola’s ride-hailing business is recovering after the coronavirus pandemic’s hurt and demand for its food business and financial services improves.

Swayam Saurabh who joined Ola in June this year brought over two decades of varied experience in a cross-section of roles. This includes internal audit, risk management, business and operational process improvements and financial reporting. He had worked at including Hindustan Zinc, Philips, Asian Paints and Larsen & Toubro. He had joined the Ola leadership team as CFO of the high-growth mobility business, as well as the fast-growing financial services and foods businesses. His focus was on building strong growth with a robust bottom line.

At the time of joining, Saurabh had said Ola is uniquely positioned to make a significant impact in an under-penetrated consumer internet space. “I find it super exciting to have the opportunity to be part of the team that will help fuel its next phase of profitable growth,” Saurabh had said in June this year.

Another executive Gaurav Porwal, the chief operating officer at Ola, was a former scientist at Procter & Gamble India and co-founder of Sparsh Nephrocare. He was a few years senior to Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal in IIT Bombay and joined the company in 2019. Early this year, Porwal had taken up the role of Pranay Jivrajka, a founding partner of Ola, in the interim. Jivrajka, had quit the ride-hailing company to launch his own startup, according to the sources. Jivrajka, who is also an alumnus of IIT-Bombay, was one of the early employees of the firm and was AVP for operations till 2013. He was later made chief operating officer in 2015, a founding partner in 2017 and CEO of Ola Foods the same year. Under Jivrajka’s leadership as chief executive officer (CEO) of Ola Foods, the firm’s new business grew in the coronavirus pandemic.

Another Ola executive Puneet Bhirani quit the company in April this year. In September this year, he was appointed by Byju’s, the world’s most valuable edtech company as senior vice president-operations. Before joining Byju’s, Bhirani was the chief executive officer of Ola Fleet and group chief operating officer at Ola across mobility, foods, and Ola electric.

The executives quitting Ola also comes at a time when the company has witnessed high-profile exits in the recent past. Ankit Jain, the co-founder of Ola Electric and one of the closest confidants of Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal, stepped away from his role in the company last year. Anand Shah, another co-founder of Ola Electric, had also left the firm. Ola’s Australian managing director Simon Smith, who had joined the firm in 2018, left the firm in December 2020. Two top executives, Arun Srinivas and Sanjiv Saddy, resigned from the company last year. These exits followed that of Nitin Gupta, CEO of Ola Financial Services, who also resigned last year. Last year Ola’s chief business officer, Sanjay Bhan left the firm after spending merely 10 months in the company.

However, according to an internal email sent to the employees recently, Bhavish Aggarwal has said that over the last year Ola has re-architected its mobility business to be much more robust and structurally efficient, enabling strong growth and a rapid return to pre-Covid levels.

“Our vehicle commerce business, Ola Cars, has scaled up rapidly to become a large operation, and our Delivery and Financial Services businesses are at key inflection points,” said Aggarwal, in the letter and which has been seen by Business Standard. “As we look forward to Ola’s next phase of growth, we are making some key updates to our organisation that will enable us to capture the opportunities that lie ahead.”

“Vinay A Bhopatkar, who is building our Deliveries business, will take on the additional responsibilities for the driver and supply ecosystem of the company’s mobility platform due to the strong synergies between these businesses. “It will enable us to further improve driver experience and utilisation,” said Aggarwal.

Anshul Khandelwal, who leads marketing will take on the additional responsibility to drive revenue as well.

“Gaurav (Porwal), who has run the mobility business for the last year and built a strong foundation during challenging times, will be leaving Ola to pursue other interests,” said Aggarwal. “It has been a real pleasure working alongside. Please join me in thanking him for his incredible efforts and in wishing him the very best for everything that lies ahead.”

Aggarwal said Arun Kumar G R, Ola’s Group CFO has helped the firm build an extremely strong finance function in a very short time. He said the firm’s finance team is much stronger with incredible talent and is much more business-oriented than ever before.

“Arun (Kumar) will continue to run the finance function across the group and all the key finance leaders at Ola will now report directly to him. Swayam Saurabh will be moving on to pursue other opportunities in mid-December. I wish him the very best for his next endeavour,” said Aggarwal.

Aggarwal also said Arun Sirdeshmukh will continue to play the role of CEO, Ola Cars, the firm’s vehicle commerce business. “Please join me in congratulating them on their new roles and let’s continue to build the future of mobility together,” he said.


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