Ola Finally Finds the Mettle to Go Global The odds for Ola in an overseas location could be far lesser than anticipated

By Sanchita Dash

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Bhavish Aggarwal Official Twitter

When you talk about the Indian cab aggregator space, Ola and Uber fight for the spotlight. While globally renowned Uber has won Indian hearts, it's now homegrown Ola's chance to bid for a space in the international markets. Having proven its stance in India, the cab aggregator app Ola decided to ride across borders straight into the roads of Australia.

On Tuesday morning, Bhavish Aggarwal, CEO and founder of Ola tweeted, A momentous day for us at @Olacabs, as we go International with Australia! We've begun onboarding driver-partners across Sydney, Melbourne, Perth & look forward to working together with local communities in building mobility for every Australian!

Treading on international roads

While speculations were always doing the rounds about Ola marking its international entry, the company confirmed so on Tuesday by entering the Australian market. According to reports, Ola is hiring vehicle owners, on-boarding them onto the platform with an introductory offer of only 7.5 per cent commission charges from them. Releasing a statement to the media, Aggarwal said, "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."

Talking about the opportunity in international markets, Shailja Dutt, Founder & Chairperson, Stellar Search, a global leadership advisory firm, believes that if Ola has assessed the opportunity right, they can learn as they go along. "It can turn out to be a very interesting market for them. It's not just about readiness, the question is about connecting the brand to the consumer well," she said.

Ola Competition!

While Ola has proved its mettle on the Indian roads, international highways can prove to be a difficult task for the Indian start-up. While it faced competition from Uber in India, but the international cab aggregator start-up too was starting up in India. However, Uber dominates the Australian market operating in 23 cities with over 82,000 drivers.

The Australian cab aggregator space already has local companies like GoCatch and Taxify. While GoCatch has raised over $11 million, Taxify is a fairly new company with a funding of $2 million. Ola's funding of $1.1 billion in October led by Tencent Holdings Limited and existing investor SoftBank, will help the start-up cross the borders.

To handle competition, Dutt believes that Ola will have to innovate according to the market. The presence of a large number of Indian cabbies in Australia will work in their favour, as they will be able to establish a connection easily with them. Giving the example of Singapore, where Uber took over the local favourite Grab by integrating the local taxi service on their platform, Dutt said Ola can look at innovating in a similar manner while providing benefits beyond transportation as well.

What Ola Needs to Do to Build a Global Brand

For a start-up testing global waters, Ola needs to tread with caution. While regulatory approvals are a different task all together, the start-up needs to be able to establish a space for itself in the international market. Harish Bijoor, brand expert, notes down a few points for Ola to keep in mind during its global expansion.

For any start-up expanding globally, the brand name needs to be global enough believes Bijoor. "The name has to be distinctly acceptable. In the case of Ola, it's just three letters, so it's short and crisp. It can transition boundaries," he said.

In order to have a loyal customer base in the new region, the brand needs to have the ability to serve local markets locally first. Bijoor believes that at no point in time should Ola count on its Indian lineage. "The front facing management in Australia should have a local face. Since the interface there, the driver partners as they call it, are going to locals from Australia, it's important that the start-up is as local as it can be," he said.

But the Indian start-up also needs to be cautious. Australia is a huge market but the population is concentrated. So, Dutt said, "They should have a phase wise launch across the country instead of going all out."

Sanchita Dash

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Senior Correspondent, Entrepreneur India

In the business of news for 5 years now. Making my way across India thanks to my career. A media graduate from Symbiosis, Pune, I have earlier worked with Deccan Chronicle (South India's leading English daily), T-Hub (India's largest incubator) and Anthill Ventures (a speed-scaling platform). 

Stories, movies and PJs are my thing. 

If you hear 'The Office' opening score randomly, don't worry it's just my phone ringing. 


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