One of the world’s largest ride-sharing apps, Ola, launches in London today (Monday 10th February). But in an already over-saturated market, with strong competition from other apps such as Bolt, Kapten, Kabbee and of course Uber, who are in the midst of a licence appeal following their rejection in November after safety concerns. Therefore, why have Transport for London (TfL) decided to license yet another app-based Private Hire operator?
The SoftBank-backed Indian based ride share app was founded in 2011 and has expanded rapidly across the UK since launching in 2018. Ola started in the UK with a trial in South Wales before expanding to operating across 27 local authorities. Cities including Birmingham, Coventry and Warwick have seen more than double-digit growth in rides in the last quarter. Now TfL has granted Ola a 15-month licence to operate in the city.
Ola has already provided around 3 million rides with over 11,000 drivers operating on the platform outside London. The app already has over 25,000 drivers registered on its platform in the capital that will be “fully operational from day one” offering three categories of rides to customers: Comfort, Comfort XL and Exec.
Simon Smith, Head of Ola International said:
“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.”
Last November TfL rejected Uber’s application for a new licence due to “several breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk”. Ola is looking to capitalise on the Uber licence rejection by claiming that its focus on safety differentiates it from other players, describing their approach to passenger safety as “industry-leading”.
Last week the company launched three new safety features, called ‘Guardian’, that they claim sets new standards for ride-hailing safety in the UK. The Guardian feature, developed by Ola, uses machine learning to automatically detect irregular vehicle activity, including prolonged stops and unexpected route deviations. As well as other measures such as 24/7 voice support, an option to share journey details with friends and family, and in-app emergency features. Ola has also partnered with British motoring association The AA, human resources consulting firm Mercer and education firm Pearson to ensure driving skills, risk assessment, customer service, and English language skills are all up to standard.