Indian cab-hailing giant Ola will launch in the UK to challenge Uber — and they both share a big investor

Bhavish Aggarwal, chief executive of Uber's main rival in India, Ola

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Bhavish Aggarwal, chief executive of Uber’s main rival in India, Ola
source
Shailesh Andrade/Reuters

  • Indian ride-hailing startup Ola plans to launch in the UK and take on Uber.
  • Ola will initially launch in Greater Manchester and south Wales but is yet to submit an application for a London licence.
  • Uber is the dominant ride-hailing company in the UK, with around 5 million customers.
  • The launch means a major investor in both Ola and Uber, SoftBank, is effectively going to war with itself.

Indian ride-hailing company Ola plans to launch in the UK, signalling more competition for incumbent Uber.

Ola will open operations in Greater Manchester and south Wales, including capital Cardiff, within the next month. The company said it was working with regulators to launch nationwide by the end of the year, but is yet to submit an application for a London licence.

Like Uber, Ola operates a ride-hailing service through an app and relies on the availability of contracted drivers. It is hugely popular in its home market of India, where Uber also operates. Uber has around 5 million customers in the UK, while Ola says it has about 125 million outside the UK.

Ola’s launch means its biggest investor is effectively going to war with itself in the UK. Both Ola and Uber share a major backer: Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank. Ola was reportedly raising $2 billion from SoftBank and other investors last October, and the Japanese firm took a 20% stake in Uber at the beginning of this year.

Like every similar service, Ola has come in for criticism for the way it treats drivers in terms of pay and their employment status. The company said people can hail both private hire cabs and black taxis through its app. This is a differentiator from Uber, which only offers private hire vehicles.

Ola is hoping that its promise of “higher earnings and daily payments” will lure drivers to its platform. The company will take 10% of any private hire fare, and 5% of a black taxi fare – which is currently a lower commission rate than Uber. That, of course, could change, and whether a driver earns more will also depend on how much Ola decides to charge passengers when it fully launches.

Bhavish Aggarwal, chief executive of Ola, said in a statement: “Ola is excited to announce its plans for the UK, one of the world’s most evolved transportation markets. The UK is a fantastic place to do business and we look forward to providing a responsible, compelling, new service that can help the country meet its ever demanding mobility needs.”