Ola, the Indian taxi giant, said it was ready to enter the London market, where it had started registering drivers. Ola is backed by SoftBank, an Uber investor. The company said it hoped to launch its services in London “in the coming weeks”. The announcement came a day after Uber was stripped of its operating licence by the local transportation regulator.
According to anonymous sources, Ola may want to launch a trial operation in London next month and go live in mid-January 2020.
Ola was granted permission to operate in London earlier this year, a sign that Uber will face stiffer competition. London is Uber’s largest European operating market, with 45,000 registered drivers and 3.5 million passenger subscribers, and is the company’s main source of revenue outside the U.S.
Transport for London (TfL) said on Monday it would not renew Uber’s operating licence. The regulator found that Uber allowed unauthorized drivers to pick up passengers by uploading their photos to other Uber driver accounts. This has happened at least 14,000 times.
In Tuesday’s announcement, Ola announced that its security features are the main difference from other competitors. The company says its platform uses facial recognition technology to verify the identity of drivers, in full compliance with Transport for London’s high standards. A key reason for Transport for London’s decision to revoke Uber’s photography was its failure to ensure passenger safety.
Ola already operates in eight UK cities, including Birmingham, Liverpool and Exeter. In addition to the UK and India, Ola says it also serves cities in Australia and New Zealand.