Home / Companies / Start-ups /  Sachin Bansal invests $100 mn in Ola in boost for Bhavish Aggarwal

Bengaluru: Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal has invested $100 million in India’s largest cab-hailing platform Ola and is expected to invest more, as Ola founder Bhavish Aggarwal aims to diversify the company’s investor base amid a boardroom battle with its biggest backer, SoftBank Group Corp. This is Bansal’s first major investment after he sold his stake in Flipkart for nearly $1 billion following his ouster from the online retailer after Walmart bought a controlling stake in May.

Bansal’s latest investment in Ola is widely seen as strengthening the hand of Aggarwal, who is fighting a long-drawn-out boardroom battle with largest shareholder SoftBank, which has offered to invest more in Ola and increase its stake in the ride-hailing platform.

Bansal is expected to pump in a total of at least $100 million. As part of the latest round, Bansal has been issued 70,588 series J preference shares at a price of 21,250 a share, according to documents filed with the Registrar of Companies, sourced from data intelligence platform Paper.vc. Mint reported on 29 October that Bansal was looking to invest nearly $100-150 million in Ola.

Over the past few weeks and months, Ola has been raising capital in tranches as part of its broader discussions to raise $1 billion in fresh funds. Ola recently received $74 million from existing backer Steadview Capital, as part of the same round. The latest funding boosted Ola’s valuation to $5.7 billion.

The Economic Times reported in December that SoftBank had offered to invest $1 billion in fresh capital into Ola. It is unclear whether Aggarwal will take more money from SoftBank, even as Ola continues to finalize discussions with other new investors such as Singapore’s Temasek Holdings Ltd, which has already bought shares in Ola through a secondary transaction. Either way, Bansal’s presence will help Aggarwal fortify his position against SoftBank.

Over the past two years, Ola under Aggarwal had changed its articles of association (AoA) to include a clause preventing SoftBank from buying more shares in Ola without approval from the company’s founders and board.

“Sachin’s investment in Ola will strengthen Bhavish’s position inside Ola as he fights against SoftBank," said a managing partner at one of India’s top five venture capital firms. He requested anonymity. “Over the years, Aggarwal has learnt from the mistakes that the Bansals made at Flipkart by giving a single investor too much control that ultimately resulted in Sachin’s exit from the company. Sachin will be in a position to advise Aggarwal as he continues to fight against SoftBank."

Apart from Ola, Sachin has been in talks to invest in a bunch of other startups. Mint reported in October that Bansal was planning to invest at least $50 million in Ather Energy, where he is already an investor. He has also held talks to increase his stake in SigTuple, which uses artificial intelligence to aid medical diagnosis, although it is unclear whether a deal will take place.

Ola, in the meantime, continues to talk to investors to raise more capital. In October 2017, Ola raised $1.1 billion in fresh funds at a valuation of $3.5-4 billion from China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd and SoftBank and had said that it was in talks to raise an additional $1 billion.

Ola’s Aggarwal has been looking to bring in more capital through new investors to avoid ceding control to SoftBank, which currently holds roughly 26% in the company.

Ola has also been shoring up its core cab-hailing business in India against arch-rival Uber Technologies Inc. As part of its plans, it is looking to aggressively expand its footprint abroad and within India, besides building a strong foodtech business to compete with sector incumbents Swiggy and Zomato. As Mint reported last week, Ola is also looking to foray into the medicine delivery space through an investment in Myra Medicines.

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