Tech

SoftBank-backed Ola lays off 1,400 employees as coronavirus crisis hammers ride-hailing apps

Key Points
  • Ola said revenues plunged 95% in the past two months as lockdown measures dried up demand for its taxi app.
  • Co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal described the downsizing as "the toughest decision I have ever taken." 
  • It comes as other ride-sharing players have been forced to take deep cost-cutting measures.
Ola cab drivers talk with each other as they wait for passengers by a roadside in Amritsar.
NARINDER NANU | AFP | Getty Images

Indian ride-hailing firm Ola is laying off 1,400 employees to help it weather the coronavirus crisis.

The company, which counts Uber backer SoftBank as an investor, said its revenues had plunged 95% in the past two months as shelter-in-place measures dried up demand for its taxi app.
Ola co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal described the downsizing as "the toughest decision I have ever taken."

"I have personally spent significant time, reviewing and revisiting every single aspect of this exercise as each one of the impacted individuals has played an important role in building Ola and are the most talented and passionate people I have come across," he said in an email to staff Wednesday.

"These decisions are not reflective of anyone's performance and are purely a function of the uncontrollable circumstances that we have been faced with."

The cuts only affect Ola employees in India and will see reductions in its mobility, food delivery and financial services units. Aggarwal said there would be no further layoffs afterward.

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Ola's human resources team will hold one-to-one conversations with affected employees, Aggarwal said. The company is offering a range of benefits including three months of pay, stock options and insurance cover.

"This crisis necessitates the need to conserve cash aggressively so that we are able to invest in opportunities in the future," Ola's chief said.

"While we restructure our organization to the new realities of our business, we are also going to recommit ourselves to strengthening our operational excellence and leverage a lot more technology to improve efficiencies and reduce cost across all parts of our business."

It comes as other ride-sharing players have been forced to take deep cost-cutting measures. Uber, Ola's main competitor, recently announced 6,700 redundancies globally, while Lyft has said it will let go of 982 workers.

Before the pandemic hit, Ola had been making a big international push for its ride-hailing service. The company launched in London in February, aiming to dethrone Uber as market leader in the U.K. capital. With the coronavirus pandemic forcing many countries to shut down economic activity, the impact has been keenly felt by start-ups in the mobility space.

Ola has raised $3.8 billion to date from investors including SoftBank, China's Tencent and South Korean automakers Hyundai and Kia.