Indian taxi firm Ola signs up 10,000 drivers as it looks to take on Uber with London launch

Key Points
  • Indian ride-sharing firm is to launch in London in 2020.
  • The firm said it has signed up 10,000 drivers in three weeks.
  • Rival Uber is at risk of permanently losing its London operating license.
The Ola app displayed on a smartphone.
Mint | Hindustan Times | Getty Images

Indian ride-sharing firm Ola claimed Tuesday it has now signed up 10,000 drivers in London as it prepares to launch in the U.K. city.

Ola announced in November that it was to enter the London market, revealing the strategy just days after rival Uber was stripped of its London license. Uber continues to operate in London under appeal.

Ola claims to be one of the world's biggest ride-hailing companies with operations extending across more than 250 cities across India, U.K., Australia and New Zealand.

The company has not announced an official launch date but one source told CNBC last month that Ola may attempt a full roll in mid-January next year.

A source, who preferred to remain anonymous due to the information not yet being public, told CNBC that Ola may look to soft launch in London in December, with a full roll out due in mid-January 2020.

Ola, which is backed by Uber investor SoftBank, has said that drivers on its platform will pay no commission to Ola for two months, meaning they will keep all their earnings.

Head of International at Ola, Simon Smith, said in a statement Tuesday that 10,000 drivers had registered to drive with Ola in three weeks and that a large number had occurred "through referrals and word of mouth."

Government statistics show there were 285,400 licensed taxi and private hire vehicles in England in 2018. Almost three quarters were private hire vehicles such as Uber, Bolt, or Ola.

In 2018, London had 108,900 licensed taxi and private hire vehicles, with the latter type accounting for 87,900 of the vehicles.

Rival Uber accounts for most private hire trips in London but on November 25, Transport for London (TfL) on Monday said it would not renew Uber's license to operate in the city.

TfL had claimed that Uber had allowed unauthorized drivers to pick up passengers by uploading their photos to other Uber driver accounts. The London regulator claimed this happened in at least 14,000 journeys.

CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this story.