Indian SoftBank-backed taxi app Ola expands to UK and opens a new battlefront with Uber

Key Points
  • Indian ride-hailing app launched in the U.K. on Tuesday.
  • The U.K. is a competitive market with a number of taxi apps such as Uber and Gett as well as traditional black cabs.
  • Ola says it will allow both private hire vehicles and black cabs on its platform. 
Ola's mobile app in action.

Ola, an Indian ride-hailing app that is backed by SoftBank, said Tuesday it would launch in the U.K., its first market in Europe.

The company has obtained a license in South Wales and Manchester, a city in the north of England, and will start operating in those regions within the next month.

But the U.K. is an extremely competitive market. Uber entered the country in 2012 and other apps such as Gett exist too. There are also a number of minicab firms as well as the iconic black cabs, particularly in London. Drivers of black cabs have protested against Uber over the years, saying the company does not adhere to the same rules that they have to. Uber recently lost its license to operate in London before a court case overturned the ruling.

With these issues in the background, Ola has taken a different approach to its U.K. launch. It will allow both private hire vehicles and black cabs to be on its platform. Ola said that it is working with local authorities to expand its services nationwide by the end of 2018.

Ola is one of India's biggest technology firms and is backed by the likes of Chinese internet giant Tencent and SoftBank. It is valued at around $7 billion, CNBC reported in October. SoftBank is also an investor in Uber too. The money has been used by Ola to expand out of its home market into new countries including Australia and now the U.K.