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Ola names Pepsi veteran Vishal Kaul COO

Vishal Kaul, COO, Ola

Vishal Kaul, COO, Ola

Cab-hailing service Ola said on Monday it has appointed Vishal Kaul as chief operating officer in place of Pranay Jivrajka, who has been named a founding partner.

Kaul is an 18-year veteran at beverages giant PepsiCo Inc, where he was most recently general manager at Pepsico Foods for Thailand, Myanmar and Laos.

At Ola, he will head operations and aim to widen the customer and driver base, the company said in a statement.

Ola CEO and co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal said Kaul’s “intuitive understanding of consumer businesses, ecosystem management experience and market understanding is invaluable”.

Jivrajka, Ola’s first employee, had been leading key strategic initiatives in recent months. He will continue to work closely with the co-founders of Ola, run by ANI Technologies Pvt Ltd.

Aggarwal said that Jivrajka has worked with him and co-founder Ankit Bhati since inception and that the change will enable Jivrajka to sharpen his focus on strategic initiatives.

Jivrajka was Bhati’s batchmate and two years junior to Aggarwal at IIT Bombay. He joined Ola as associate vice president for operations in July 2011 and was elevated as COO in February 2015.

Apart from heading operations, Jivrajka has been a vocal critic of Uber Technologies Inc and accused the US rival of breaking local rules and dumping capital.

Kaul’s appointment is in line with Ola’s strategy to expand its organisational bandwidth by hiring industry veterans who held senior positions in large corporations. It hired Infosys CFO Rajiv Bansal as finance chief in late 2015 and Microsoft India sales head Raghuvesh Sarup as chief marketing officer and head of categories.

The company is believed to be looking for a general counsel and a head of new initiatives to replace Sandeep Sahni, who quit recently.

Ola, backed by Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp, hedge fund Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital, was valued around $5 billion in August 2015 when it raised $500 million. SoftBank recently marked down the value of its investment in the company.

Ola has been facing intense competition ever since Uber sharpened its focus on India after exiting China.