Indian ride-hailing service Ola has been granted a licence for London

5 Jul 2019

Image: © Mat Hayward/

Ola joins London’s latest ride-hailing services Bolt, Kapten and ViaVan in competition against transport giant Uber.

Indian ride-hailing service Ola received a private hire vehicle (PHV) operator licence from Transport for London yesterday (4 July), which will allow it to compete against Uber on the streets of London.

The online transportation network company, which was valued at $6.2bn in May 2019, was founded in 2010 by Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati. At present the service has 1.5m driver-partners working in cabs, auto-rickshaws and taxis, spread across more than 150 cities. Ola also has more than 6,000 employees working in tech and customer service roles.

Ola was launched in the UK in August 2018. Until now, it has only been available in Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff, Reading, Bath, Bristol and Exeter. Between these towns and cities, the company has a fleet of 10,000 drivers.

Ola, which is backed by SoftBank (and around 60 other massive companies), is likely to begin offering services in London from September onwards. Ola joins Bolt, Kapten and ViaVan as a competitor to transport giant Uber. According to the The Telegraph, Ola plans to distinguish itself from competitors by putting a larger emphasis on passenger safety, while offering a larger variety of vehicles for users to choose from.

In order to build trust with passengers, Ola announced that it will screen all of its drivers and provide users with the option to share all of their ride details with emergency contacts, through a feature built into the app. In some of Ola’s Indian cabs, drivers must install panic buttons for passengers to use in emergencies; however, this move was met with criticism regarding the efficacy of these buttons and their “shoddy implementation”.

Ola Electric

The news of Ola’s launch in London coincides with another major international announcement the company made this week.

As well as ride-hailing services, Ola offers food delivery in some regions à la Uber, and in other regions it runs Ola Electric. This is its electric vehicle (EV) business, which aims to have 1m EVs on the road by 2021 by working with car manufacturers Hyundai and Kia. This business also aims to invest heavily in charging infrastructure. The news relating to Ola Electric is that the company hinted this week that it will be introduced to Latin America very soon.

Marcelo Claure, chief operating officer of SoftBank, tweeted: “Can’t wait to take our EV to Latam [Latin America] with my friend and partner @bhash Bhavish.” Aggarwal replied: “Looking forward to @OlaElectric in Latam very soon! Cheers!”

Aside from this exchange on Twitter, Ola has yet to make a formal announcement of plans to operate in Latin America.

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic