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Indian ride-hail player Ola is taking its fight against Uber global, starting with Australia

Ola, which has often touted its home-field advantage over Uber, expects to expand to a number of other countries, as well.

Indian Ola app co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal stands onstage in front of a car and addresses an audience
Indian Ola app co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal addresses a press conference in Bangalore on Nov. 22, 2016.
Manjunath Kiran / AFP / Getty Images

Indian ride-hail player Ola is charting foreign waters for the first time since it was founded seven years ago. In a move signaling its intent to expand into Australia, Ola began recruiting drivers in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth today.

This will be the second market in which Ola will be going head to head against Uber. But in India, Ola has long touted its home-field advantage over its aggressive competitor, often attributing its ability to expand geographically and the services it offers to the company’s acute understanding of the nuances of the market. Japan’s SoftBank is an investor in both companies.

Australia will be a very different battle for Ola. The company, which has yet to give a timeline for when it will launch the service in Australia, says it expects to apply a lot of the same tactics that worked in India, such as a strong collaboration with local governments and a focus on drivers.

Ola’s shift from focusing entirely on winning in India — a huge and complex market with hundreds of languages and cultures — to expanding globally is a big move. In fact, the company, which recently raised $1.1 billion, has its sights set on launching in other countries, too. Ola would not disclose what those markets are.

This move comes as Didi, a Chinese ride-hail player — and Ola investor — solidifies its foothold in new markets.

For years, Didi had flirted with an international presence through investments in companies that operated in places like India, Southeast Asia, Brazil and Europe. But the company formalized its global expansion through an acquisition of Brazilian ride-hail company 99.

Uber, on the other hand, is looking to cut its losses as it shoots for a 2019 IPO under new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Part of that may involve rethinking its worldwide presence. Khosrowshahi, for instance, has conceded that the company won’t be profitable in Southeast Asia for a while. Already, Uber has merged its business in Russia and China with its competitors Yandex.Taxi and Didi, respectively.

Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal wrote that he sees significant potential in Australia, where Uber has operated without strong opposition. But Ola isn’t alone in attempting to take on the ride-hail behemoth: Europe-based Taxify also recently launched in Australia.

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