Arun Sarin served Vodafone Group as its chief executive for five years, driving the company’s expansion into emerging markets such as India, Turkey and Africa. He also led the growth of data and Internet businesses globally. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Arun Sarin served Vodafone Group as its chief executive for five years, driving the company’s expansion into emerging markets such as India, Turkey and Africa. He also led the growth of data and Internet businesses globally. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Former Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin invests in Ola, to join board

Sarin will contribute to the overall business strategy in an advisory role and will help drive growth in the market, says Ola

Taxi-hailing company Ola, run by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, has received an undisclosed amount of investment from former Vodafone Group Plc chief executive officer (CEO) Arun Sarin, who is also joining Ola as an independent director.

Sarin confirmed the investment, without disclosing further details. Sarin will contribute to Ola’s overall business strategy in an advisory role and will help drive growth in the market, Ola said in a statement on Tuesday.

Sarin, who is looking to invest in mobile technology start-ups in India, served Vodafone Group as its CEO for five years, driving the company’s expansion into emerging markets such as India, Turkey and Africa. He also led growth of the data and Internet businesses globally.

Before joining Vodafone, Sarin was president of AirTouch Communications. He also worked with Pacific Telesis Group, which was later merged with AirTouch.

Sarin has also served on numerous boards, including that of Gap Inc. and the Court of the Bank of England. He was also a senior advisor to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Co. LP, a global private equity group. He is currently a non-executive director of Cisco Systems Inc., Charles Schwab and Co. Inc. and Blackhawk Network Inc.

“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. Bhavish (Aggarwal) is an outstanding entrepreneur with a good team around him. I’m happy to help Ola grow into one of India’s largest businesses serving tens of millions of customers every day," said Sarin.

Until recently, the boards of Indian start-ups were largely dominated by their founders and private equity backers. However, as competition grows and capital pours in, the companies are focusing on strengthening their boards by bringing in top global executives who can help steer the fast-growing companies, as competition becomes fierce.

“Arun brings a global perspective and a strong understanding of emerging markets like India. His experience in management and in growing large companies is invaluable to Ola. Arun is globally respected as a business icon, and we, at Ola, will stand to benefit from his mentorship and guidance. I’m very excited about Arun joining us on the board as we look forward to building mobility for a billion people," said Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO and co-founder of Ola.

Founded in January 2011 by Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, alumni of Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Ola serves users in 100-plus cities.

It currently has at least 200,000 vehicles listed on its platform, including autorickshaws in Bengaluru, Delhi, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, and black-and-yellow cabs in Mumbai.

Ola is backed by Russian venture capital firm DST Global, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund GIC, Falcon Edge Capital, SoftBank Group Corp., Tiger Global Management LLC, Steadview Capital and Accel Partners.

In March, Ola acquired rival TaxiForSure in a cash-and-stock deal worth $200 million (around 1,270 crore today) to strengthen its position in the taxi services market.

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