Bengaluru: Cab service provider Ola, India’s third most valuable start-up, on Wednesday claimed that its cheapest offering, Ola Micro, had surpassed the entire India business of arch rival Uber Inc. in daily rides.
This is the latest in a series of irreconcilable claims and counter-claims exchanged by Ola, run by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, and Uber, which are competing hard in India’s rapidly growing cab aggregation business.
“In just under seven weeks of its launch, Ola Micro alone as a category, is larger than our nearest competitor as a whole," Raghuvesh Sarup, head of categories and chief marketing officer at Ola, said in a statement.
“Ola Micro has seen rapid acceptance and popularity in just a matter of weeks since its launch, compelling us to take it to over 75 cities within a short span of time."
Ola did not disclose the number of daily rides. The company’s claim that Micro had surpassed Uber is based on “internal data, as well as data available from market research," a spokesperson said.
Mint couldn’t independently verify Ola’s claim.
Ola’s claim needs to be seen in the context of Uber’s last claim.
In a 16 March interview, Eric Alexander, president of Uber’s Asia business, said the Indian unit of the world’s most valuable start-up would surge past Ola in 30 days.
Uber’s Alexander said in his interview that Uber’s market share increased from a mere 5% in January last year to nearly 50%.
“I would say that within the next 30 days we will beat them (Ola). We will surpass them very, very shortly," he said.
On the basis of his claim, Uber should have surpassed Ola by now.
Uber on Wednesday did not respond to an email seeking comments on whether it had indeed overtaken Ola. An email to Alexander seeking comment went unanswered.
At the time, Alexander’s claim was contrary to the numbers disclosed by Ola.
In August 2015, Ola, through SoftBank, said it had a market share of 85% in India’s cab business, as of 30 June 2015. SoftBank, which first invested $210 million in Ola in October 2014, made the disclosure in a regulatory filing with the Tokyo Stock Exchange, where it’s listed.
A few weeks after SoftBank’s disclosure, Uber officials started giving out information to the media that Uber’s market share had jumped to nearly 40% from just 4-5% in January 2015.
Uber chief executive officer Travis Kalanick, the face of the latest generation of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, reiterated the claim when he visited India earlier this year.
Ola’s Micro, at ₹ 6 per km, is priced a tad cheaper than Uber’s cheapest offering UberGo, priced at ₹ 7 per km, in Bengaluru.
When asked about Ola’s claim, a Uber spokesperson said in an emailed statement: “We are excited to see the growth and momentum we have picked over the last few months becoming the most popular ride-hailing app in India. It’s all possible because of the product and technology that provides better value to our riders and drivers using our platform."
Uber and Ola are fighting for dominance of India’s cab business that, according to SoftBank Group, may be worth $7 billion by 2020.
Ola is present in 102 cities while Uber operates in just 27 cities. What really matters, however, is winning in the top 8-10 cities, which account for much of the market.
In response to Ola’s low-cost offering, Uber had announced on 12 April that the company will slash fares by up to 22% in 10 non-metro cities for UberGo.
India is an important market for Uber, especially since it is possibly the last frontier in Asia with lucrative market potential. In China, Uber is still a distant second to Didi Kuaidi, which is also an investor in Ola.
Ola, one of the so-called unicorn start-ups with a valuation of about $5 billion, has so far raised $1.2 billion from investors.
Uber announced in July last year that the company will invest $1 billion in India.