The news of Ola getting a London operating license comes at a time when the company — backed by nearly $4 billion from investors that include Didi, Softbank, Accel, Sequoia, Kia and nearly 60 others — appears to be making a stronger international push after years of building its service in India, which accounts for the vast majority of the 125 million customers that have taken trips with Ola to date.
An Ola spokesperson said that for now, in London the focus will be on rolling out a more standard service akin to what Ola provides in the UK today, and also what you get today from other London ride-hailing providers like Uber, Bolt and many smaller mini-cab firms that build up networks of drivers who work as contractors on the service using their own vehicles.
And the news of Ola’s London license is not the only international news for the company this week: it comes at the same time that Ola Electric, the company’s spun-out electric vehicle business, is hinting that it will soon to be coming to Latin America.
Ola’s international push is an interesting shift for the company, which (like Lyft) was one of the early ride-hailing startups to commit to a strong focus as a regional leader at a time when its arch competitor Uber was burning hundreds of millions of dollars to expand internationally in multiple markets around the world.
A spokesperson told TechCrunch that Ola expects to kick off its services two months from now, in September. “Ola has been granted a PHV operator license by TFL,” an Ola spokesperson said in a statement provided to TechCrunch. “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!
Ola launched in the UK in 2018 and currently operates ride-hailing services in five regions that cover several of the UK’s bigger cities: South Wales (Cardiff, Newport and Vale of Glamorgan), the South West (Bath, Bristol, Exeter, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire), Merseyside (Knowsley, Liverpool, Sefton, St Helens and The Wirral), West Midlands (Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton) and Reading.
While one reason for building Ola Electric is to help meet demand for lower emissions in India, a second track is to use that EV business to take Ola abroad — and specifically to Latin America, according to this exchange between Softbank International CEO and group COO Marcelo Claure and Ola’s founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal.https://twitter.com/TechCrunch/status/1146740831359049729