Ola, an Indian ride-sharing company with more that 125 million users in its home country, has announced plans to launch in Australia this year.
Like Uber, Ola relies on a custom-built technology platform that links riders and private hire vehicle owners (Ola calls them "driver-partners") through a smartphone app. Founded in 2011, it currently operates in more than 110 Indian cities, has a network of more than a million driver-partners and claims to serve "as many as a billion rides annually" through its platform.
According to research from KalaGato, Ola and Uber each controlled close to half of India's ride-sharing market throughout 2017.
One point of difference in India is that Ola has expanded to encompass many travel types beyond private cars, including auto rickshaws and car rentals. It also recently rolled out a dockless bike-sharing system, and a connected car platform that allows riders to interact with the in-car entertainment systems of their cabs.
It's unclear at this point what exactly Ola's Australian offering — which is the company's first international expansion and is still subject to regulatory approvals — will entail.
"We are very excited about launching Ola in Australia and see immense potential for the ride-sharing ecosystem which embraces new technology and innovation," said Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal in a release.
"With a strong focus on driver-partners and the community at large, we aim to create a high-quality and affordable travel experience for citizens and look forward to contributing to a healthy mobility ecosystem in Australia."
Ola claims that it owes its success to a driver-focused approach, and also emphasises that it collaborates with governments and communities to pump resources back into solving important transport issues. But like Uber it's also had its share of controversy.
In 2015 the Delhi government issued a ban on ride-sharing services, including Ola and Uber, when it found that 80 per cent of the vehicles taking jobs did not have the necessary permits to operate. Also that year, glitches in Ola's technology saw users able to ride free and charge other drivers, and personal info sent out to random users via SMS.
Like Uber Ola has also been accused of fostering a toxic culture, especially with regards to gender diversity, and has seen protests from its drivers over pay transparency and rates.
Ola's impending launch in Australia comes soon after the arrival of Estonian outfit Taxify, and will likely put further pressure on Uber, currently the dominant rideshare player in the country.
Ola is calling for expressions of interest from drivers in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.