Indian cab-hailer Ola hit the streets of London on Monday, with 25,000 drivers registered on a platform offering rides in a market estimated to be worth nearly $3 billion.
London is the 28th city in the UK in which Bengaluru-headquartered Ola operates after expanding across other British cities such as Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool. Ola claims to have provided over three million rides to date, with more than 11,000 drivers already operating on the platform in the UK.
Regulator Transport for London (TfL) gave its approval to the Indian company in July 2019 to start private hire vehicles (PHV) in the UK’s capital city. Under the PHV system, drivers themselves are required to apply for a licence and list their vehicle as a privately registered vehicle for hire.
Industry estimates suggest London’s ride-hailing market size to be close to $3 billion.
“We aim to be the market leader in London, by the end of 2021, by offering a better deal for customers and drivers. We aim to expand our services across the UK and get licenced across 350 licence jurisdictions and be a UK-wide business." said an Ola spokesperson over the phone.
Ola’s entry in London comes soon after TfL revoked Uber’s licence citing problems with customer safety. In November 2019, TfL stripped the San Francisco-based company’s licence after the government body found that 14,000 Uber trips were taken in London by drivers using fake identities.
Ola also takes on Daimler AG-backed Bolt ride-hailing service in the UK, which got a licence from TfL in June 2019.
TfL’s verdict on Uber has prompted Ola to come prepared with compliance. For the London launch, Ola has partnered with DriveTech, an institute that offers drivers awareness courses, to offer skill assessment programmes to London’s drivers.
Each registered Ola driver in London has undergone a risk assessment and has got additional access to more e-learning courses. DriveTech is part of British motoring association called the Automobile Association.
“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. 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," said Simon Smith, head, Ola International.
As an inaugural offer, Ola drivers will retain 100% of their earnings for the first six weeks, the SoftBank-backed firm said. Ola’s passengers will get £25 worth of ride credit for signing up in the first week after the launch, according to a company statement.
Ola’s international debut was in Perth, Australia in February 2018, where it is competing with Uber. Within a few months of that launch, Ola expanded to seven cities in Australia with over 40,000 drivers. It also operates in New Zealand with over 85,000 drivers.