The Indian ride-hailing firm Ola will launch in London this February, after transit authorities revoked Uber’s license to operate in the city last year, according to Business Insider.
The service launched in other UK cities in 2018, and was granted a 15-month license to operate in London last July.
To gain a foothold in the UK’s largest city, where it will compete with other ride-hailing services such as Uber, Bolt, and Kapten, Ola will offer discounts for first-time users. It also has promised not to take a cut of fares from its drivers for the first six weeks, after it which it says it will offer “the best commission rate” available.
Ola says it works more collaboratively with regulators than other ride-hailing services, and Uber is facing the loss of its largest European market following a clash with Transport for London (TfL). The regulator says drivers were operating with fake identities, jeopardizing passenger safety.
Uber is allowed to operate while it appeals the decision, but will be forced to leave London if it loses.
It’s also facing other challenges in the UK, including a hearing in the Supreme Court over the employment status of its workers, and the question of whether it will be classified as a transportation provider rather than a tech platform, which would greatly increase its tax burden.
Ola has also emphasized its robust safety features to protect passengers, including an emergency button in its app and a 24/7 helpline.
The company says this “collaborative approach with regulators and local authorities, as well as its clear focus on safety, drawing on industry-leading and global best practices” will help differentiate it from its competitors.
Ola already operates in 28 UK boroughs, including Birmingham, Coventry, Liverpool, Reading, and Warwick. The company says it has seen double-digit growth in the last quarter.
Ola International head Simon Smith said in a statement:
“The overwhelmingly positive reception to Ola since launching in the UK in 2018 illustrates the significant demand from drivers, riders and communities. We are working closely with drivers to build a high quality and reliable service for Londoners. Launching in London is a major milestone for us and we are keen to offer a first-class experience for all our customers.”
Ola has raised about $3.8 billion from investors including Tencent and SoftBank, which is also a major investor in Uber. It’s one of India’s top tech startups, operating in over 250 cities around the world, with 2 million registered drivers.
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