After proving its mantle in the Indian market, Ola has set its eyes at the ride hailing market in London, a massive opportunity for the company. Backed by Softbank, Ola has declared that it will start its operation in the UK capital from 10th February. It just works in the company’s favour that right now, Uber’s license to operate in the region has been seized, hence the ‘massive’ opportunity.
Ola has said that the platform will be fully operational from day one, with over 20,000 drivers having registered on the platform since it began onboarding a month ago. The company had set up an office in the city last year but had to wait to start operations because of security concerns. It plans to take zero commission on rides for the first six weeks. It would then move on to “the best commission rate” in the market. There have been no official mentions of specific figures.
Ola got a 15 month license to operate in London in July last year. However, safety and security are major concerns in the U.K., and that could be a reason for Ola’s delayed commencement of operations. The company entered the region even before that, sometime in 2018. Ola on its end, has emphasized its concern for security, adding that the platform offers a range of security features, such as a 24/7 helpline for drivers and customers and an in-app emergency button.
Ola has expanded rapidly throughout the United Kingdom (UK) since its launch in 2018 and will now operate across 28 local authorities. The company claims to have seen “more than double-digit growth” in rides in cities including Birmingham, Coventry and Warwick. To date, Ola claims to have already provided over 3 million rides with more than 11,000 drivers operating on the platform in the UK.
The company is among the most funded global ride hailing companies and perhaps Uber’s fiercest competitor as on date. Ola has raised close to $3.5 billion till date from the likes of Softbank, Tencent, and Chinese ride-hail firm Didi Chuxing (also a recipient of SoftBank money). Ola’s entry into a market like London will only result in more problems for Uber, which continues to face headwinds globally. China’s Didi Chuxing and India’s Ola are the only two who have the capacity to take on Uber. Most others have either got themselves acquired or have shut shops. And since Didi Chuxing remains China’s focused, it is Ola which can take on a global battle with Uber.
Uber had its license revoked in a November 2019 ruling, as the platform was accused of carelessness and it was found that drivers on the platform were faking their identities. The ruling was given on the grounds that Uber failed to meet the “fit and proper” requirements for private hire operators.
Uber however still remains operational in the area as the company has appealed on the decision, claiming that it was “just wrong” and that they had fundamentally changed how they operate in the region over the last couple of years. Still, the fiasco surrounding Uber could become just the push that Ola needs for a strong footing in the region.
The company is already operational in other parts of U.K.. Simon Smith, head of Ola International said the platform has received “overwhelming positive” reception since launching in the U.K. in 2018. The platform has already served 3 million rides with more than 11,000 drivers. Now, it has already signed up 20,000 drivers for its London launch.