Indian taxi giant Ola has announced it is moving into the UK and has picked South Wales to kick start its national launch next month. Having obtained licences for the Cardiff and Newport areas, It is also planning to open in Manchester ahead of a nationwide rollout. It says it is working with local authorities across the UK to expand nationwide by the end of 2018.
Founded in 2011, Ola now has 125 million customers and is available in 110 cities in mainly India and Australia. The UK launch is the first serious challenge to market leading Uber, which was founded two years earlier than Ola, has three million drivers and operates in 600 cities in 65 countries. Ola and Uber, which both count Japan’s SoftBank Group as an investor, have been competing in India’s billion pound taxi market in recent months.
Unlike Uber it will offer a choice of a private hire vehicle or black taxi and arrives a time when tensions are high in the cab industry as Uber begins to open up the market. At a time when the uber model is being questioned, Ola claims it will attempt to “lead the industry” with its approach to passenger safety, including its screening of drivers and support services.
Ola founder and chief executive Bhavish Aggarwal said:
“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.
“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.”
The company is also expanding into food delivery, has partnered Microsoft to build a platform for networked cars, and is experimenting with electric vehicles.