Ola's global march continues as it eyes UK entry within a month

After marking its entry into Australia earlier this year, Bengaluru-based Ola is now setting its sights on the ride-hailing market in the United Kingdom (UK) and has obtained a licence to operate in South Wales and Greater Manchester regions.

The company plans to start operations in the UK market within the next month, saying it would be the only ride-hailing player there that can legally offer customers both private hire and black cabs on its platform. It plans to further expand its presence across the UK by the end of 2018.

“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,” said Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO of Ola, in a statement.

Just like when it announced its entry into the Australian market in February, Ola seeks to sign up driver partners in cities such as Cardiff, Newport and Vale of Glamorgan, apart from the regions, before opening the platform for customers. The company says it will offer best-in-industry commission rates to its driver partners - 10 per cent for private hire vehicles and 5 per cent for metered taxis.

After growing its business to cover 110 cities in India, Ola is now looking to expand beyond the bounds of the country, taking on its chief rival Uber in markets where it is dominant. The move, experts say, is part of the company’s plan to build a base in developed markets where the ticket size of transactions would be far higher than that in India.

Ola has already said that it is profitable on a unit level and hopes to become profitable at a net level by the end of the current financial year. CEO Aggarwal, in an event in Bengaluru last month, had said that the company would go public in the next three-to-four years, as it was keen to continue growing its service at a fast pace for now.

In Australia, Ola claims that in the last six months, it has built a base of 40,000 drivers across seven cities. Business Standard had first reported in January that Ola was planning an entry into Australia and New Zealand, while it was also exploring Dhaka and Colombo as potential markets.

Aggarwal had met London Mayor Sadiq Khan when he had visited India last December. London is known to be one of the hardest markets for ride-hailing apps in the world, with a strong regulator and local taxi operators who have opposed new-age players. Famously, London revoked Uber’s license to operate in the city last year, forcing CEO Dara Khosrowshahi to make a public apology to the city and its people.

Uber was granted a 15-month licence to operate in London only in June, after it won an appeal in the court.

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