India’s top Uber competitor has some undesirable advice for U.S. startups: Go locally.
“They have a very cookie-cut approach in terms of what the model is and how [to] Pranai Jivrajka, chief executive of Ola Cabs, said on the sidelines of the Asian Business Forum at CNN in Bangalore, the force is feeding it in any geography.
Jivrajka, who until recently was Ola’s Operations Director, said Uber should get rid of one approach that fits all and instead try to understand the “local nuances” that will help it determine which services “users and drivers really want”.
Uber declined to comment on Jivrajka’s remarks.
Uber and I. have fought for years years a bitter battle for sovereignty in India, a market with 1.3 billion potential customers. The country has gained increasing importance for Uber after a series of recent setbacks elsewhere in Asia.
The San Francisco-based company suspended operations in Taiwan last week, six months after selling its operations in China to its local competitor, Didi Chuxing. Didi, who fights for Uber in the major foreign markets, is one of Ala’s investors.
In India, Uber has often found herself playing the role of catching up with her rival in Bangalore. Showcasing its newest domestic product – which allows Indian users to book a car for a full day – has already been introduced by Ola in 85 cities.
Ola also allows users to book one of the three wheel drive rickshaws everywhere in India, a service launched by Uber but later discontinued in 2015.
“What helped us was having an ear on the ground in terms of understanding what users wanted,” said Jeffravka.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick insists that his company is not ready to leave India.
“We are losing, but we see a path towards profitability,” Calanic said during a visit to Delhi in December. “We see ourselves here in the long run.”
India is not always a direct market for either company – tens of thousands of drivers representing both Uber and Ula in Delhi have been hit this week, demanding better wages and benefits. The Delhi government has offered to mediate the dispute.
Jivrajka did not comment on the protests, but said that Ola’s main focus still brings more drivers to its platform.
“We need more drivers because the pace at which demand is increasing is much higher than the way supply is grouped,” he said.
Jivrajka also got some advice for another gigantic silicon valley company hoping to enter India: electric car maker Tesla.
“There are no rules on Indian roads,” said Jeffravka. “One thing many people say is that if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere.”
– Manfina Suri contributed to the preparation of the reports
CNNMoney (Bangalore, India) First posted February 13, 2017: 8:48 am ET