India's Ola takes ride-hailing fight to Uber with UK launch

Firm will take on US rival to offer private vehicles for hire as well as Britain's famous black cabs on its platform

epa06620194 App-based taxis park during a protest against Ola and Uber companies in New Delhi, India, 22 March 2018. Reports stated that Uber and Ola drivers in New Delhi staged protest to demand better pay and working conditions.  EPA/RAJAT GUPTA
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Indian ride-hailing firm Ola said on Tuesday it plans to launch services in Britain this year, months after expanding operations in Australia, intensifying its rivalry with US peer Uber.

Ola has obtained licences to begin operations in South Wales in September, as well as Greater Manchester, and plans to expand nationwide by the end of the year, it said.

The firm will offer private vehicles for hire as well as Britain's famous black cabs on its platform, and will add more transport options going forward.

Ola and Uber, which both count Japan's SoftBank Group as an investor, have been competing in India's $12 billion taxi market and in recent months have taken their rivalry overseas.

Ola is targeting high-booking markets in search of profitability because in India, less loyal consumers demanding low-cost rides makes competition more intense, said Neil Shah, research director at consultancy Counterpoint Research.


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In February, Ola launched operations in Australia, its first foray outside India and in one of Uber's strongholds where the Indian company now has 40,000 drivers on its platform across seven cities.

Uber has a presence in Britain as well.

"This could put pressure on Uber and cause them to possibly merge in India," said Mr Shah, adding that Ola could use its international expansion strategy into Uber territories as leverage.

Uber, in March, decided to exit South East Asia, allowing it to focus on India.

Ola, founded in 2011, clocks 1 billion rides each year globally, and has more than one million driver partners in over 110 cities, it said.

The company is also expanding into food delivery, has partnered Microsoft to build a platform for networked cars, and is experimenting with electric vehicles.