Notwithstanding the expansion of their offerings for the domestic consumers, Indian start-ups in the consumer technology space are increasingly beginning to look at foreign markets to expand their businesses. The latest development comes from ride-hailing service Ola, which announced its plans to enter the UK, making it the company’s second market outside India after launching in Australia earlier this year. Other start-ups that have looked outside the Indian market include financial services firm Paytm, which has launched operations in Canada; hotel aggregator Oyo, which has started services in Nepal and Malaysia and plans to further expand its foreign portfolio by entering China; and food-tech platform Zomato, which is present in 24 countries including UAE, the US, the UK, Turkey, Italy and Australia, among others.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ola said it has obtained licences to operate in South Wales and Greater Manchester, and will launch operations in South Wales by September. The Bengaluru-based company said that it was working with local authorities across the UK to expand nationwide by end of 2018. It is noteworthy that Ola’s main rival Uber has faced flak in the UK, losing its licence to operate in London last year. A court, in June this year, granted Uber a probationary licence to continue operations in London for 15 months. Unlike Uber, Ola has entered the UK with a platform offering passengers the options to hail private hire vehicles (PHVs) as well as local Black Cabs. Uber and Ola, which compete in India and Australia, both count Japan’s Softbank as one of their key investors.
“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,” said Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder & CEO of Ola. He added that the company would continue its engagement with policymakers and regulators to expand further and build a company “embedded in the UK” and add further transportation options for greater passenger choice in future. In Australia, where it launched operations in February, Ola operates in seven major cities – Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Gold Coast. It said that over 40,000 drivers across Australia have registered since its launch earlier this year and have completed millions of rides. The company said it is inviting drivers in Cardiff, Newport and Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales to register with Ola.
Experts have pointed out that startups that are leading the ranks in their respective segments within India will begin to explore foreign markets that have consumers with more room for spending, given that India’s demographics continue to make these firms drive growth by taking a hit on their books. Even as startups go global to more financially attractive markets than India not all has worked out as planned. In 2016, Zomato scaled down operations in a number of its markets and began managing the businesses there remotely from India. These geographies — the US, Chile, the UK, Ireland, Sri Lanka — were mainly those where Zomato was not in the leadership position.