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Cab firm Ola launches in London as rival to Uber

By Marianne Curphey

Taxi service plans to capture business in the capital and expand across the UK

Ola, the Softbank-backed cab service, began rolling out its service in London today.

The launch comes a few months after rival taxi service Uber, in which Softbank has also invested, was stripped of its licence to operate in London over safety breaches.

Uber lost its London licence at the end of November after Transport for London warned of breaches that placed passengers and their safety at risk.

Ola, which is based in India, has set its sights on being the market leader in London. It has incorporated new safety features, backed by AI, which enable head office to check on route patterns and contact the driver or customer if it detects unusual behaviour.

Ola was founded in 2010 and started UK operations in Cardiff in 2018. It now has around three million users across the UK. The company’s international head, Simon Smith, said Ola wanted to give passengers the safest possible riding experience.

Uber and Ola are already rivals in India and Australia, but this is the first time they will be competing for customers in the UK’s capital. Ola has a presence across the UK, with operations in Birmingham, Cardiff and Liverpool. It has also targeted regional towns such as Exeter and Reading which do not have Uber services. The company’s expansion scheme is to operate in all 300 of the UK’s local authorities, which are in charge of granting or withdrawing licences for taxi services to operate.

For today’s launch, Ola has been focusing on Londoners, paying for both audio and visual advertising across the capital to raise awareness of the brand. An estimated 3.5 million Londoners use Uber on a regular basis.

FURTHER READING: Uber expands services with announcement of digital wallet and relaunched credit card

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