Ola stole the limelight ahead of driving into Liverpool. While the move had media salivating over how the Brits were now going to ride around in three-wheelers, the reality is somewhat different.Sindhu Kashyap
Earlier this week, Ola UK tweeted a video and a few pictures of green jacketed 'auto' drivers riding Ola branded e-rickshaws in Liverpool, UK, offering free rides. Since then, several media reports have said that Ola rolled out e-rickshaws in the UK.
Ola, however, confirmed to YourStory that this was a marketing campaign around the launch of its taxi services in the city of Liverpool. The free rides in lime-green e-rickshaws, piloted by drivers in matching vests, were part of their 'city launch' campaign.
The Bengaluru-based ride-hailing had launched its services in UK in August 2018 with Cardiff and had soon expanded into Bath, Exeter and Bristol. When Ola actually launches its services in Liverpool, it will be the fifth city in UK. No date has been set yet.
According to a highly placed source in Ola, it will be a while before the British can actually hail an e-rickshaw and pay for the ride. The source told YourStory,
"It is a unique marketing activation campaign, to grab eyeballs. The rides are free and for just a short while so that consumers know that Ola will launch its cab services in the city. But rest assured, we are not launching rickshaws there."
But what's stopping Ola from launching e-rickshaws in the UK? According to the source at Ola, it's simply not allowed. Rickshaws of any kind, petrol-based or EVs, are not an approved form of public transport in the UK.
Commenting on the launch in the UK last August, Bhavish Aggarwal, Ola Co-founder and CEO had said in a press statement that it was one of the world’s most evolved transportation markets:
“The UK is a fantastic place to do business and we look forward to providing a responsible, compelling, new service that can help the country meet its ever demanding mobility needs. We look forward to our continued engagement with policymakers and regulators as we expand across the country and build a company embedded in the UK.”
The e-rickshaws were a unique way to get attention, especially in an evolved market like the UK, where Uber already has a strong hold.
Ola has treated the UK as a slightly a different market. For one, they are focussed on partner development. When they launched in August, the team had started inviting private hire vehicles (PHV) and metered taxi drivers in Cardiff, Newport, and Vale of Glamorgan to better understand registering and driving with Ola.
It had also offered them benefits of a low introductory commission rate, at 10 percent for PHVs and five percent for metered taxis. Uber currently charges its drivers a 25 percent commission.
The company has been working with local authorities across the UK to expand nationwide. Ola rides in the UK will have DBS-screened drivers and processes such as 24/7 voice support, options to share ride details with emergency contacts and in-app emergency features.
Ola had launched in Australia in February 2018, and is now present in seven major cities down under. It claims to have over 40,000 drivers across Australia. Ola claims to conduct 1 billion rides globally, every year, with more than 1 million driver partners and 125 million customers in over 110 cities.
For Uber, UK is its largest market. London, in fact, was the eleventh city that Uber launched in. In London alone, Uber has over 40,000 driver partners, and is one of the top 10 cities for the San-Francisco based giant. In 2015, Uber had doubled its profits in the market.