The Law is the Law

I was the first full time employee at Ola, back in 2011 when we started off, with a mission to build mobility for a billion Indians. I personally take immense pride in what we have created over the last five years – as a service for the citizens of this country and a livelihood platform for hundreds of thousands of micro entrepreneurs who work with us as driver-partners.

Over the past couple of days, there has been an irrelevant debate around organizations operating in the country being national or international. Isn’t a company like Alibaba, run by a local entrepreneur like Jack Ma, ‘Chinese,’ despite having a majority of its shareholding from international investors? Aren’t the cutting edge technology solutions, high value jobs and Internet ecosystem that Alibaba has built, invaluable assets for China?

It is a shame that our competition has to fan a debate of nationalism to hide their identity of being a multi-national, with serial violations of law as a business strategy, not just in India, but globally. This debate in our view is not about foreign vs. local but who is respectful of the local laws and who is disrespectful.

It is the onus of the business that brings in transformative technology, to work with the Government and evolve the ecosystem further in a partnership mode. It is only detrimental to the nation’s interests to take a confrontational approach. As a matter of principle, Ola has always taken an approach of working in partnership with the Government. Here are some examples where a local company Ola has partnered with the Government, even at a serious business expense to itself.

In a city like Gurgaon, bike taxis can be run legally with commercial yellow plated vehicles. Ola Bike in Gurgaon chose to operate within this regulatory framework. Inspite of having an opportunity to conduct business legally, our competition chose to run on private white number plates, illegally. They continue to operate this service, even today as you read this, inspite of receiving multiple notices and seizures of hundreds of vehicles by the local authorities, also terming it as aiding and abetting an organized crime. Similarly, they continue to operate white number plate cars under their ‘Commute’ offering. As a conscientious company, Ola has made the choice to work within the regulatory framework, despite the significant supply disadvantage.

When competition entered in India, they launched with a ‘card on file’ payment system. This was in gross violation of RBI regulations, yet they continued this for more than a year, fully knowing the violation, and it took an ultimatum from the Governor of the RBI to make them fall in line.  Ola, respecting the law of the land chose not to do this and had to face significant business disadvantage of customers moving away and loss of market-share for over a year.

Similarly, during the Delhi Diesel ban, Ola committed to 100% CNG adoption of vehicles within the state proactively. On the other hand, even after the High Court Orders came into effect, competition chose to continue plying diesel vehicles with absolute disregard for the state and the court of law, until a contempt petition forced them to cease and desist.

From our origins in a 1BHK apartment in Mumbai that Bhavish, Ankit and I shared, Ola has built its business on the strong foundation of creating value for society. And reposing its faith in the institutions of the judiciary and government.

I and each one of my colleagues, here at Ola will continue to work towards our mission of building mobility for a billion Indians, till it is achieved. 

Pranay Jivrajka is the Chief Operating Officer at Ola.

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