Indian ride-hailing firm Ola said it plans to launch services in Britain this year, months after expanding operations in Australia, intensifying its rivalry with U.S. peer Uber Technologies. Ola has obtained licences to begin operations in South Wales in September, as well as Greater Manchester, and plans to expand nationwide by the end of the year, it said in a statement.
The firm will offer private vehicles for hire as well as Britain's famous black cabs on its platform, and will add more transportation options going forward. Ola and Uber, which both count Japan's SoftBank Group as an investor, have been competing in India's $12 billion taxi market and in recent months have taken their rivalry overseas.
Ola is targeting high-booking markets in search of profitability because in India, less loyal consumers demanding low-cost rides makes competition more intense, said Neil Shah, research director at consultancy Counterpoint Research.
In February, Ola launched operations in Australia, its first foray outside India and in one of Uber's strongholds where the Indian company now has 40,000 drivers on its platform across seven cities. Uber has a presence in Britain as well.
"This could put pressure on Uber and cause them to possibly merge in India," said Shah, adding that Ola could use its international expansion strategy into Uber territories as leverage. Uber, in March, decided to exit Southeast Asia, allowing it to focus on India. Ola had recently signed an agreement with the Haryana government to create more job opportunities in the state.
Ola, founded in 2011, clocks one billion rides each year globally, and has more than one million driver partners in over 110 cities, it said. The company is also expanding into food delivery, has partnered Microsoft Corp to build a platform for networked cars, and is experimenting with electric vehicles.