Indian ride-hailing startup Ola announced on Tuesday that it plans to start its taxi hailing services in the U.K. This marks Ola’s second foray into an overseas market where it is directly pitted against Uber.
Ola said it will launch operations in the region of South Wales in September following which it will then move into Greater Manchester. "The company is working with local authorities across the U.K. to expand nationwide by end of 2018," Ola said in a news release.
Uber has been facing a backlash by black taxi unions in the UK. To avoid a similar fate, Ola has announced a tie-up with both private hire vehicles and black taxi. The company said it will charge commissions of 5% to 10%. "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," the company said.
Currently, Ola only operates in two countries – India and Australia, the UK will be its third, after expanding into Australia earlier this year.
This move is the first serious challenge in the UK to market-leading taxi-hailing app Uber, which was founded two years earlier than Ola in the U.S., has three million drivers and operates in 600 cities in 65 countries.
Founded in 2011, Ola operates in more than 110 Indian cities with over 1 million drivers. The company said it operates in seven major Australian cities and has registered over 40,000 drivers.
While Uber launched its business model as a disruptor of traditional taxi services, Ola says it wants to bridge the gap that radio taxi services created. Ola will hence be the first app to link black taxis, as well as individuals who offer private hire.
Apps in the UK that currently connect passengers with black taxis include Gett and Mytaxi.
Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association (LTDA), which represents black taxi drivers, said: "The LTDA welcomes fair competition in London and would expect to see Ola play by the rules if granted a licence to operate in the capital. Ola says that it is committed to raising safety standards in the UK's private hire industry from the get go, unlike Uber."
Ola says it is working on enhanced security measures of its passengers and will be offering round-the-clock voice support and an option to share journey details with a passenger's emergency contacts.