Transportation

Ola Electric becomes India’s newest unicorn with new $250 million investment from SoftBank

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India’s Ola is further widening its lead over Uber in the nation — and getting the help it needs from their mutual investor. Ola Electric has raised $250 million from SoftBank as India’s largest ride-hailing firm pushes to scale its electric vehicles business in the country.

The Series B financing round, details of which emerged in a filing to the local regulator on Tuesday, valued Ola Electric at $1 billion, a source familiar with the matter said.

The infusion comes as New Delhi looks to take a serious step in electrifying the existing fleet of cabs and scooters in the country as it attempts to curtail air pollution and carbon emissions. The country has set an ambitious goal to convert 40% of the fleet to electric by 2026.

Just so it happens, Ola has been working on electric vehicles for several years. The company is currently running several two-wheeler and three-wheeler electric vehicles pilot programs across the nation. It is also building charging infrastructure and swappable battery systems for these vehicles.

Ola Electric, which raised $56 million earlier this year, plans to bring 10,000 e-vehicles to the road by the end of this year and deploy a million similar vehicles over the coming years. The parent group, which raised $300 million from Hyundai and Kia to expand its mobility solutions and electric vehicles programs as part of an ongoing Series J round earlier this year, also is partnering with original equipment manufacturers to scale the EV business.

The active participation of SoftBank in Ola quells speculations that the Indian firm was trying to distance itself from the conglomerate fund. Ola Electric has become the first EV business in India to gain unicorn status. A company spokesperson declined to comment.

The firm, which already has presence in the U.K., New Zealand and Australia, last month announced that it will set up shop in Uber’s backyard. Ola said it will build a new advanced technology center in San Francisco and employ more than 150 engineers there.

“As we think of the next decade, we want to invest in and we want to be very relevant on the global scale business front as well as building new-age, cutting-edge technology which impact the new-age business model of the future, there is no better place in the world to do it than here in the Bay area, we have made a small start, we will be hiring close to around 100-150 people here this year and from there we will take it beyond,” Ola co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal said at a recent conference.

Uber, meanwhile, currently has little to no electric vehicles in the nation. Just two months ago, it partnered with electric bicycle sharing platform Yulu to conduct a trial in Bangalore. Globally, however, Uber ATG spun out of the San Francisco-headquartered firm and raised capital for its self-driving business. China’s Didi is reportedly eyeing going the same route.

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