Nonetheless, sources said that Bhati has already moved away from the company. Fresh out of IIT, Bombay, Bhati co-founded ANI Technologies along with college senior Bhavish Agarwal in 2010.Since then, Bhati has been heading its technology and backend operations. “It will be a big loss for Ola,” the source added.
Another source said that Bhati distancing himself from daily operations is because of a fall out with Agarwal. “Problems between the two started when the Foodpanda and Ola integration started.” Ola acquired food delivery startup Foodpanda in 2017 to rival Uber Eats. “There were technology glitches. Bhavish didn’t behave well with Bhati at public meetings.”
Yet, Bhati never retaliated. “He is the quiet types, an introvert. He would sit in one corner and code,” said the second source. “He is media shy, hardly attends Ola events, keeps to himself, and preferred watching Agarwal get all the glory than become part of it.”
The problems between the co-founders was visible when Agarwal kept Bhati out of Ola Electric. “Bhati doesn’t hold any stake in Ola Electric, except for a small portion through ANI Technologies,” said a third source.
Ola Electric is Agarwal’s moonshot project to build a network of electric charging stations across the country. In end-2018 Agarwal bought 92.5 percent of Ola Electric for Rs 92,500 and within months raised almost $1 billion from SoftBank. “That’s when Bhati decided that it was time to distance himself,” said the third source.
Bhati, who did not reply to messages or mails seeking a response, continues to hold stake in ANI Technologies and is on the company’s board.
“Even if he stops coming to office, Bhati will continue to hold stake for the time being,” the source pointed out.
Bhati’s move comes at a time when Ola is struggling to raise funds and is involved in a mind-share and wallet-share battle with arch-rival Uber. According Vumonic Datalabs, an Estonian behavioural analytics startup, Ola holds 55 percent of the ride-share market, while Uber enjoys 45 percent.
Bhati was the one who built the first Ola website in-house. Born in a middle-class household in Jodhpur, a laptop was unaffordable for his family. So he spent a lot of time at the computer centre in the college. He is also data-obsessed, be it on drivers, kind of rides, areas and vicinities that get more demand, feedbacks and cancellations, wait times, among others. All that goes into building Ola’s predictive algorithm, which in turn makes the customer experience better.
In every step Ola took, from becoming a unicorn and beyond, Bhati has left his footprints in the journey: be it starting new categories of rides, opening up the platform for auto drivers, integration of TaxiForSure (after Ola acquired it in 2015), or keeping the product-based approach alive inside the company.
Note: The article will be updated as and when we receive a response from Ankit Bhati.