Ola CEO slams LinkedIn, calls out Microsoft for 'woke culture' enforcement

Bhavish Aggarwal says Ola will migrate the entire workload from Microsoft's Azure cloud platform to its proprietary Krutrim service

A file photo of a fleet of Ola cabs (photo: @Olacabs/X)
A file photo of a fleet of Ola cabs (photo: @Olacabs/X)

Aditya Anand

In a resolute stand against what he perceives as cultural imperialism by Western tech giants, Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal has once again taken aim at LinkedIn and its parent company Microsoft. Aggarwal, speaking on Saturday, 11 May, accused the platforms of “bullying Indians to agree with their woke culture” and attempting to “cancel out” Indian voices.

“I’m not against global tech companies. But as an Indian citizen, I feel concerned that my life will be governed by western Big Tech monopolies and we will be culturally subsumed as the above experience shows. This is not about Ola or any of my companies. Ola is too small to make any impact against this. I want to confront this forced ideology as a free-thinking Indian and do what I can in my capacity. So here are the actions I’m taking. Putting my money where my mouth is,” he wrote on X.

Aggarwal’s rebuke follows a series of clashes with LinkedIn, culminating in the deletion of his posts on 10 May 2024, where he confronted the platform's AI for allegedly imposing a political ideology on Indian users. The Ola CEO questioned the neutrality of LinkedIn's AI and accused the platform of promoting a political agenda contrary to Indian cultural values.

The Ola CEO’s remarks were particularly pointed towards LinkedIn's recent introduction of pronouns in user profiles, which he criticised as a manifestation of "woke political ideology" unsuited for India's cultural landscape. Expressing apprehension over the potential influence of global tech companies on India's cultural norms, Aggarwal emphasized the need to preserve the country's rich cultural identity.

On 7 November 2017, Ola unveiled ambitious plans to revolutionize the automotive industry with a cutting-edge connected vehicle platform. Microsoft emerged as a key partner in this endeavour, with Ola designating it as the preferred cloud provider. Microsoft Azure was set to power Ola Play, the company’s pioneering connected car platform designed for ridesharing.

Founded in January 2011 by IIT Bombay alumni Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, Ola (formerly Olacabs) promised to leverage Microsoft's AI and IoT capabilities to offer enhanced telematics, navigation guidance, and cloud-based infotainment to passengers.

In a call to action on 11 May 2024, Aggarwal urged the Indian developer community to take charge of their digital destiny by building an indigenous social media framework. He pointed to the need for a Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) that prioritises user autonomy and data sovereignty, challenging Indian developers to forge solutions that align with the country’s cultural ethos.

Aggarwal’s latest salvo underscores a broader tension between Western tech platforms and India’s burgeoning tech ecosystem. His criticisms echo concerns within the Indian tech community about the influence of Western cultural norms and the need to assert Indian identity in the digital sphere.

Amidst these clashes, Aggarwal’s vision for an Indian-centric digital ecosystem continues to gain traction. Earlier announcements regarding Ola's migration to its own Krutrim cloud service and the introduction of Krutrim AI exemplify a concerted effort to reduce dependence on Western tech infrastructure and foster indigenous technological solutions.

Additionally, Aggarwal announced Ola's intention to migrate its entire workload from Microsoft's Azure cloud platform to its proprietary Krutrim cloud service. This decision, while technically challenging, reflects a broader ambition to assert autonomy over technological infrastructure and minimize the risk of cultural impositions by Western tech giants.

As the debate over digital sovereignty and cultural autonomy intensifies, Aggarwal’s stance is being seen as a rallying cry in various quarters for India’s tech community to reclaim control over its digital future and resist external cultural impositions.

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