Ola, India’s biggest ride-hailing startup, is heading down under. It’s the overseas debut for Ola, which will start inviting drivers in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to sign up, it said in a statement Tuesday. Ola will be competing with Uber Technologies Inc. in Australia. The two companies have been going head-to-head in India’s $10-billion ride-hailing market where the ramshackle public transportation systems in cities offer immense growth prospects. “We are very excited about launching Ola in Australia and see immense potential for the ride-sharing ecosystem,” Bhavish Aggarwal, Ola’s co-founder and chief executive officer, said in the statement. Both Uber and Ola are backed by SoftBank, which has invested in Ola’s parent ANI Technologies Pvt. Uber also has a presence in Australia, where both Uber ride summoning and UberEATS food delivery are growing businesses. The overlap between Uber’s regional footprint and SoftBank’s investments in Asia have led to questions whether there might be consolidation among ride-hailing businesses, or market exits.
For example, SoftBank-backed Grab is competing head-to-head with Uber in Southeast Asia. “Ola and Uber now have a common investor and if not rightaway, there’s bound to be a push from SoftBank on how to get the two to burn less cash by not competing directly with each other,” said Satish Meena, a New Delhi-based analyst at Forrester Inc. “Even if there’s no merger between the two, there’s likely to be synergies.” Founded in 2011 by two Indian engineers in their twenties, Ola has 125 million users and more than a million drivers in 110 cities. The company said in its statement that it serves over a billion rides annually via cabs, street taxis and three-wheeler autorickshaws. “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,” Aggarwal said.