Softbank-backed Ola launches London operations, over 25,000 drivers sign-up

Topics Ola in UK | London | SoftBank

Bengaluru-based ride-hailing firm Ola said on Monday that it is now live in London. The platform is fully operational with three categories: comfort, comfort XL and exec ride classes. Ola has over 25,000 drivers registered on the platform, bringing scale to its London offering immediately. The SoftBank-backed company said it will maintain its differentiated focus on drivers, safety and a collaborative approach with local authorities and regulators.

“We are thrilled to now be live in London. This is a major milestone for our business and represents the next step in our ambitions to connect people in cities throughout the country,” said Simon Smith, Head of Ola International.  “We are proud of the progress Ola has made in the UK and we look forward to building on our success by offering a differentiated service to Londoners, focused on quality, safety and reliability.”

The company said it has teamed up with DriveTech (Part of the British motoring association AA), consulting giant Mercer and Pearson in an initiative to ensure that Ola riders in London will benefit from the highest standard of driving skills, and driver customer service and communication. Ola will partner with DriveTech to use its driving risk assessment to improve the level of driving skills and knowledge of all drivers on the Ola platform in London. Each driver has completed a risk assessment and is given complimentary E-Learning modules to further accelerate their professional development. On completing these modules, they will receive a DriveTech Permit to Drive, attesting to their skills. 

Additionally, every Ola driver in London has passed the Versant spoken English test, from education experts Pearson plc, ensuring a high level of communication in English. They have also successfully completed Ola’s Customer Service Test, developed with global selection experts Mercer, ensuring they have the skills and mindset to deliver a great experience to their passengers.

The company said London drivers joining the platform will benefit from six weeks of zero commission and market-leading commission rates thereafter, enabling them to keep more of their earnings. 

Earlier last year, Ola received an operating licence from Transport for London (TfL), the UK Capital’s transport regulator. Late last year Ola’s US-based rival Uber lost its licence to operate in London. TfL had said that Uber will not be given a new licence in London after repeated safety failures. A key issue identified was that a change to Uber's systems allowed unauthorised drivers to upload their photos to other Uber driver accounts. This allowed them to pick up passengers as though they were the booked driver, which occurred in at least 14,000 trips - putting passenger safety and security at risk. 

Ola said it will continue its collaborative approach with TfL and local authorities, as well as its clear focus on safety, drawing on industry-leading and global best practices. The company said it is raising the standards of safety in the UK ride-hailing industry and bringing global best practice to the market. In a number of innovative moves for the UK, Ola is launching its flagship global safety feature, ‘Guardian.’ It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically detect irregular vehicle activity. The firm’s platform has a ‘Start Code’ feature to ensure customers and drivers are correctly matched. The company is also providing 24/7 voice support for riders and drivers, and a cap of six penalty points for drivers on its platform. 

Ola began its international foray in February 2018 by launching in Australia, followed by the UK and New Zealand in the same year. In the UK, Ola is present across 28 regions with a network of over 35,000 drivers.

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