Bhavish Aggarwal, the CEO of Ola cabs. Photo: AFP

Ola Electric Mobility Pvt Ltd, a unit of ride-hailing service Ola, is the latest Indian startup to reach the unicorn status – to be valued at more than US$1 billion – after the latest round of funding by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp of $250 million.

Ola Electric raised the funds as part of its Series B round, according to the company’s filings with the Registrar of Companies, Mint newspaper reported. Both Ola and Ola Electric are run by ANI Technologies Ltd, a company founded by Bhavish Aggarwal.

Aggarwal had earlier opposed SoftBank’s efforts to increase its stake in Ola, as he feared powerful investors may jointly wrest control of the company he founded.

Incorporated in 2017, Ola Electric was a wholly-owned unit of ANI Technologies until March, when Tiger Global and Matrix Partners India made an investment of 4 billion rupees ($58 million) in the company. This was followed by an undisclosed investment by Tata Sons Chairman Emeritus Ratan Tata in May. Now, ANI Technologies holds a minority stake in the company.

With this infusion, Ola Electric aims to reach its goal of introducing one million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2021. The company is running several pilots to test electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure for batteries.

The Indian government is trying to encourage the use of electric vehicles to curb vehicular pollution and reduce the country’s oil import bill.

According to a recent report by Greenpeace and AirVisual, among the 30 most polluted cities in the world, 22 are in India. Among the world’s top 10 polluted cities, seven are in India. Vehicular emissions play a major role in air pollution.

India relies on imports to cater to 80% of its oil needs and it is on the rise as domestic output has remained stagnant. According to figures released by the Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell, oil imports were 80.6% in 2015-16, which rose to 81.7% in 2016-17 and 82.9% in 2017-18. In 2018-19 it was 83.7%.

The country’s oil consumption grew from 184.7 million tonnes in 2015-16 to 211.6 million tonnes in 2018-19. India’s oil import bill rose to $ 111.9 billion in 2018-19, up from $ 64 billion in 2015-16.

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