SoftBank-backed Ola to expand operations in the UK

Ola,Cab-riding app,Cab aggregators

Indian ride-hailing firm Ola said on Tuesday it plans to launch services in Britain this year, months after expanding operations in Australia, intensifying its rivalry with US peer Uber Technologies Inc.

Mint first reported on May 28 that Ola is adopting a holding company structure similar to that of India's most successful internet startup Flipkart to boost the cab-hailing company's valuation and improve the management of its businesses.

The launch means a major investor in both Ola and Uber, SoftBank, is effectively going to war with itself.

Ola will open operations in Greater Manchester and south Wales, including capital Cardiff, within the next month.

Ola was last valued at $7bn (£5.4bn) when it raised a $3bn mega-round from Softbank, Chinese backers Tencent and Didi Chuxing, and DST Global.

Back in India, Ola and Uber have been burning cash for the past four or five years in a bid to outgun each other.

Ola says it will be the only ride-hailing app in the United Kingdom that offers passengers the option of PHVs and Black Cabs through one consumer-friendly platform, which will in future see additional transportation options incorporated for greater passenger choice.

Ola is hoping that its promise of "higher earnings and daily payments" will lure drivers to its platform. That, of course, could change, and whether a driver earns more will also depend on how much Ola decides to charge passengers when it fully launches.

The UK will be the third country that Ola operates in, following its foray into Australia in February.

Bhavish Aggarwal, Ola co-founder and chief executive officer, said the Bengaluru-based company would look forward to a "continued engagement with policymakers and regulators as we expand across the country and build a company embedded in the UK".

Unlike Uber it will offer a choice of private hire vehicle or black taxi.

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