Softbank-backed ride-hailing firm Ola to launch in London after Uber ban

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
Ola was founded in India in 2011. Photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP via Getty Images

India’s Ola, the ride-hailing firm backed by Uber (UBER) investor Softbank, on Tuesday said that it would launch in London “in the coming weeks”, just a day after Uber was stripped of its licence in the city.

The firm said it had begun registering drivers in London. Ola, which already competes with Uber in India, launched in the UK last year.

It launched in Cardiff in August 2018 and now also operates in cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool, and Exeter.

The move comes after Uber on Tuesday began its fightback against the Transport for London (TfL) decision as it hopes to avoid a ban in the UK capital.

READ MORE: What's next for Uber after London licence announcement?

“We have built a robust mobility platform for London which is fully compliant with TfL’s high standards,” said Ola’s international chief Simon Smith on Tuesday.

“We have had constructive conversations with the authorities, drivers, and local communities in London over the past months, and look forward to contributing towards solving mobility issues in innovative and meaningful ways.”

Unlike Uber, Ola allows user to choose between ordering a private hire car or black taxi.

While Ola is a well-funded entrant to the London ride-hailing market, the likes of France’s Kapten, which says it has 16,000 drivers in the city, and Bolt, which says it has accepted 30,000, already have a head start.

READ MORE: Why Uber lost its London licence again

Ola, which was founded in India in 2011, says its mission is to “build mobility for a billion people”. It promotes its 24/7 phone support and its “collaborative approach” to working with governments and local authorities.

Uber, meanwhile, appears to be planning to heap pressure on TfL and mayor Sadiq Khan to encourage them to overturn Monday’s decision.

It has also been reassuring customers that they can still use its service, since it can continue to operate while an appeal is in progress. The appeal may eventually reach the UK Supreme Court, a process that could take years.