The ride hailing battleground has been redrawn with Ola launching in the UK
If you ask someone to think of successful disruptive businesses, the chances are that Uber would be high on the list. While Uber is not classically disruptive, as D/SRUPTION has pointed out, it is certainly colloquially disruptive. The revolutionary cab hailing firm has upended the mobility as a service market in major cities across the globe. Where residents were previously resigned to limited transportation options, they now have cut price taxi journeys at their fingertips.
However, a lot has happened to Uber since its launch in the US in 2011. For a start, several city authorities have cracked down on its operations by cancelling licenses. The company has also faced a range of scandals over misuse of customer data, sexual harassment claims and the underpayment of drivers.
Many companies are now challenging Uber for its cab hailing crown. In India, Uber’s market dominance is hotly contested by the domestic app Ola. Now, Ola is taking the fight to Uber by launching in its key markets abroad. In February, the company rolled out its service across Australia, and it is now due to start operating in the UK in the regions of Greater Manchester and South Wales.
Say Ola to the UK
Ola’s launch in the UK has been characterised by collaboration with authorities. In contrast to the heavy handed approach of Uber, Ola claims to want to work with local councils, to solve the problem of mobility in a collaborative way. Whether or not this is true, any ride hailing company would be wise to learn from the lessons of Uber – whose lack of corporate responsibility caused it to lose its operating licence in London in 2017.
Ola – in contrast – is taking a more responsible route. In an effort to avoid conflict with black cab drivers, Ola users can choose between hiring a private hire vehicle or a traditional taxi. Drivers are set to receive a higher level of customer payments than in other ride hailing apps, with private hire operators charged 10 per cent of passenger fares, and black cab drivers five per cent. What’s more, Ola is pitching itself as highly concerned with passenger safety. It thoroughly screens its drivers, offers users the option to share ride details with emergency contacts, and also has in app emergency features.
Jumping on the bandwagon
Ola’s move into the UK market signals the ongoing diversification of the mobility as a service space. The company has seen considerable success in Australia, where in a matter of months it has amassed 40,000 registered drivers across 7 cities, and there’s no reason to assume it couldn’t achieve similar adoption in Britain.
However, Ola is not the only ride hailing app to contest for Uber’s customers in the UK market. Other notable apps include MyTaxi and Gett, which find users rides in black cabs; and ViaVan – a joint venture between Via and Mercedes-Benz Vans – which launched in London in April and is designed to facilitate ride sharing.
Service is key
Whatever the company, the key to the success of any ride hailing app is service. It doesn’t matter how ethical or collaborative a mobility business claims to be – if their cabs are late, don’t know where they are going, or don’t show up at all, then customers will not book them again. With so many transport as a service options now available, ride sharing apps cannot afford to let their users down. Cheap fares and introductory discounts have limited appeal when you’re waiting for a cab in the rain for an hour.
Although the new apps must contend with the sheer size of Uber, which has three million drivers across 600 cities in 65 countries, they do have the advantage of being able to learn from its mistakes. If Ola and co. can provide reliable service at a reasonable price, without clashing with local authorities and traditional taxi providers, then they stand in good stead to beat the poster child of disruption at its own game.
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