OlaCabs, India’s home-grown answer to Uber, is in talks with Japan’s SoftBank, and China’s Tencent for a new round of funding for up to $2bn, as it seeks to bolster its war chest for its rivalry with the US-based taxi aggregator to dominate India’s fast-growing market.
Uber has identified India – a country with relatively low rates of car ownership and weak public transportation systems – as a “top country” for its business, and since entering the market in 2013, it has enlisted over 450,000 drivers.
But it faces fierce competition from Bangalore-based Ola, which was founded in 2010 by Bhavnesh Aggarwal, and has been backed by SoftBank, Tencent, Tiger Global and Sequoia Capital.
Neither Ola nor Softbank would comment on the terms of the new fund-raising nor the size of the deal. But people familiar with the talks said it could involve funding of around $2bn, delivered in a phased manner, and would include multiple investors.
India is a rapidly growing market for taxi aggregators, given the low rates of car ownership and poor state of public transportation. But many Indian cab drivers are are on both the Uber and Ola platforms, and the two companies have at times engaged in fierce price wars.
Both companies have also dealt with unrest from unhappy drivers, who say they were encouraged to take out costly car loans on the promise of high earnings that have not proven realistic.