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India's Ola set to challenge Uber in UK ride-hailing market

Low commission rates offered to lure private-hire and taxi drivers

India's ANI Technologies, operator of the Ola ride-hailing app, recently received a total of $1.1 billion in funding from Tencent Holdings, SoftBank Group and U.S. investors.

Indian ride-hailing startup Ola on Tuesday said it plans to start services in the U.K., marking its second foray into an overseas market in its battle against Uber.

Ola will launch operations in South Wales next month, then move into Greater Manchester. "The company is working with local authorities across the U.K. to expand nationwide by end of 2018," it said in a news release.

The expansion into the U.K. comes despite a regulatory battle that bigger rival Uber of the U.S. is fighting there. In June, Uber regained its right to operate in the country. Earlier, the transport authority had refused to renew Uber's license.

In what seems to be an effort to avoid a similar backlash, Ola said it will be signing up drivers of private hire vehicles and metered taxis. The company said it will charge commissions of 5% to 10%. "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," the company said.

Founded in 2011, Ola operates in more than 110 Indian cities with over 1 million drivers. With funding from Japan's SoftBank Group and China's Tencent Holdings, it marked its overseas foray in February by entering Australia. The company said it operates in seven major Australian cities and has registered over 40,000 drivers.

The move is indicative of well-funded Asian startups expanding their horizons. China's Didi Chuxing recently followed Ola into Australia, while Indonesia's Go-Jek has announced an expansion into Vietnam, facing off against regional champion Grab.

Uber has been scaling back its operations in Asia, selling its local operations in China to Didi and those in Southeast Asia to Grab. Still, it remains Ola's biggest rival in India.

Wataru Suzuki

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