Ola gets green light for London taxi business

LONDON: India’s biggest ride-hailing platform Ola Cabs, which is run by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, has received approval from London’s transport regulator to start private hire vehicles (PHV) in the capital city of the UK.

This would allow Ola to mount a challenge to Uber Technologies Inc., and also take on Daimler AG-backed “Bolt” ride-hailing service, which received a licence from Transport For London (TFL), London’s local government body, in June.

Ola UK Pvt. Ltd has received a one-year carriage licence from TFL to operate “PHV vehicles” across London where drivers themselves are required to apply for a licence and list their vehicle as a privately registered vehicle for hire, according to a company statement.

The development comes just days after Morgan Stanley analysts signalled that Ola would become the biggest threat to Uber in the UK, since Ola has raised far more capital than the rest of the app-based taxi operators.

Bolt which was formerly known as Taxify, recently re-entered the UK. Bolt has only raised around $190 million to $280 million in funding so far, compared to Ola’s massive war chest of $3.8 billion, according to a Morgan Stanley report last week.

“We believe Ola is arguably a greater threat if media reports of Ola’s entry into London at the end of the year prove accurate,” the analysts said in their report.

Ola counts SoftBank Corp., Sequoia Capital, Accel, and automakers like Kia Motors and Hyundai as its investors. The company is continuing efforts to build a massive war chest to battle deep-pocketed Uber, especially in India.

Ola first entered the UK in August 2018 with licences to operate across south Wales, including in Cardiff, Newport, and Vale of Glamorgan.

It has also started its services in Australia in February this year and named Simon Smith as the managing director to manage operations in the country. Ola has 40,000 drivers across Australia on board since, according to the company.

Based in Bengaluru, Ola has a presence in 150 cities across India, besides operations in the UK, Australia and New Zealand, serving more than 150 million users with more than a billion rides annually.

A person directly aware of the development who declined to be named said that the company has “received more than 10,000 driver registrations to operate private cabs across the UK”.

“Ola will be the first ever platform to offer both PHVs and black cabs in the UK,” the person said. The company already has been listing black cabs on its platform since its launch in the UK in August across cities like Reading, Birmingham, Cardiff, etc., said a company spokesperson.

The spokesperson for Ola also added that the company is “looking forward to building world-class mobility offerings for London, by collaborating with drivers, riders, the government, and local authorities”. “London is one of the world’s most iconic cities and hosts a progressive mobility environment. We couldn’t be more excited to bring Ola to London in the time ahead.”