Tech

Softbank’s Indian Uber challenger brand Ola is launching in the UK

Ola, the Indian-based ride-hailing firm backed by Japanese mega-investor Softbank, has announced plans to enter the UK market.

Ola's app will allow riders to choose from services across both private hire vehicles and black cabs, in a bid to shake things up by challenging major UK taxi disruptors Uber and Gett at the same time.

The company has obtained operating licences in South Wales and Greater Manchester to start, with plans to hit London in due course as it negotiates with regulators and local authorities for UK-wide expansion by the end of the year.

It will also add more transportation options going forward, in a similar fashion to how its Indian app offers rickshaw rides to its more than 110 cities. The news follows an expansion into Australia in February, signalling that Ola is ready to ramp up its global takeover.

Read more: London taxi drivers mull £1bn legal action against Uber

Ola was last valued at $7bn (£5.4bn) when it raised a $3bn mega-round from Softbank, Chinese backers Tencent and Didi Chuxing, and DST Global.

Co-founder and chief executive Bhavish Aggrarwal said the firm chose the UK for its European launch as "one of the world's most evolved transportation markets".

While he didn't mention Uber or its recent troubles as a concern, Aggrawal said Ola will be focusing on engaging with authorities throughout the process. For example, all Ola drivers will have to pass checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service, and its app will hold a number of features for customer safety like emergency contact details.

"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," Aggrawal continued.

"We look forward to our continued engagement with policymakers and regulators as we expand across the country and build a company embedded in the UK."

Read more: Uber rival ride-hailing app Gett raises $80m from VW, hits $1.4bn valuation

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