The Indian rival criticizes Uber’s business model

Ola outshines Uber

Uber’s biggest competitor in India has unsolicited advice for the US startup: Go local.

“They have a very meaningful approach to what the model is and how [to] force it to be fed into every geography,” said Pranay Jivrajka, a top executive at Ola Cabs, on the sidelines of CNN’s Asia Business Forum in Bangalore.

Jivrajka, who until recently served as Ola’s COO, said Uber should abandon its one-size-fits-all approach and instead seek to understand “local nuances” that would help it identify services that ” users and drivers actually want”.

Uber declined to comment on Jivrajka’s comments.

Uber and Ola have been fighting for dominance in India, a market with 1.3 billion potential customers, for years. The country has gained traction for Uber after a series of recent setbacks elsewhere in Asia.

The San Francisco-based company suspended its operations in Taiwan last week, six months after it sold its China operations to local rival Didi Chuxing. Didi, who is declaring war on Uber in important foreign markets, is one of Ola’s investors.

In India, Uber has often caught up with its Bangalore-based rival. Its latest local product offering – allowing Indian users to book a car for a whole day – is already being offered by Ola in 85 cities.

Ola also lets users book one of India’s ubiquitous three-wheel auto rickshaws, a service Uber started but discontinued in 2015.

“What helped us was being able to listen to understand what users want,” said Jivrajka.

See also: Uber’s competitors are teaming up in Asia

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick insists his company is not ready to leave India.

“We’re losing, but we see a path to profitability,” Kalanick said during a visit to Delhi in December. “See you here long term.”

Related: Uber suspends service in Taiwan as fines soar

India isn’t always an easy market for either company — tens of thousands of drivers representing both Uber and Ola went on strike in Delhi this week demanding better pay and benefits. The Delhi government has offered to mediate in the dispute.

Jivrajka did not comment on the protests but said Ola’s main focus remains on getting more riders onto his platform.

“We need more drivers because the pace at which demand is increasing is much faster than the way supply is aggregated,” he said.

Also Read: Uber CEO Resigns from Trump’s Corporate Advisory Board

Jivrajka also had some advice for another Silicon Valley giant hoping to break into India: electric carmaker Tesla.

“There are no rules on the Indian roads,” said Jivrajka. “One thing a lot of people say is that if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere.”

— Manveena Suri contributed to the coverage

CNNMoney (Bangalore, India) First published February 13, 2017: 8:48 am ET The Indian rival criticizes Uber’s business model

Olly Dawes

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