Ola Cabs Shuts Down Operations In UK, Australia And New Zealand

Ola had ambitiously embarked on foreign shores a few years ago in order to compete with Uber, but it’s now quickly retracing its steps.

Ola Cabs will exit all international markets by the end of the month, ET reports. These include the markets of UK, Australia and New Zealand, where the company had been running operations.

“There is immense opportunity for expansion in India,” an Ola spokesperson said. “With this clear focus, we’ve reassessed our priorities and have decided to shut down our overseas ride-hailing business in its current form in the UK, Australia and New Zealand,” they added.

Ola had launched in Australia in 2018, which was its first overseas launch. “We are very excited about launching Ola in Australia and see immense potential for the ride-sharing ecosystem which embraces new technology and innovation.” Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal had then said. Ola had looked to take on Uber in the new market.

Ola had similarly expanded to the UK in 2018, and begun serving the South Wales and Greater Manchester markets. “Ola is excited to announce its plans for the UK, one of the world’s most evolved transportation markets,” Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal had then said. “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,” he had added. In 2019, Ola had got a license to run taxis in London. But in 2020, Ola had been banned in London for “public safety failings” for letting rides run on unlicensed vehicles.

Ola had also launched in New Zealand in late 2018, and had begun serving the cities of Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington. “We see a real opportunity in New Zealand to provide a fair alternative in the rideshare space for both customers and drivers,” Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal had said.

But Ola has now pulled out of all international markets, and says it’ll focus on growing in India. But there aren’t many signs that there’s much headroom left for growth in the Indian market — by most estimates, growth in India’s ride hailing sector is slowing, and Uber and Ola seem to have settled on what has now become a duopoly in the space. The two companies aren’t launching new cities at the pace at which they used to, and have gone easy on new product launches as well.

Ola isn’t the only Indian startup that’s curtailed its global ambitions in recent times. Zomato had once operated in the US through Urbanspoon, and in many parts of Europe, but has exited nearly all international markets. But Ola had seemed to be distracted away from its core ride hailing business in recent times — it launched Ola Electric, and is set to take it public; it’s also experimented with verticals ranging from food delivery to used cars, but has found little success. Amidst all this, Ola is shutting down its international ride hailing operations, ostensibly to focus on the Indian market. It’s possible that Ola has some plans to turbocharge its Indian operations, but the most likely explanation for the exit is that over the last half a decade, the company never quite found the success that it was hoping to on foreign shores.