Indian rival slams Uber’s business model

Ola put Uber in the shade

Uber’s top rival in India has some unsolicited advice for the American startup: Go local.

“They have a very strict cookie approach to what and how model [to] Pranay Jivrajka, a top executive at Ola Cabs, said on the sidelines of CNN’s Asia Business Forum in Bangalore.

Jivrajka, who until recently was Ola’s COO, says Uber should abandon its one-size-fits-all approach and instead try to understand the “local nuances” that will help them define services which “users and drivers really want.”

Uber declined to comment on Jivrajka’s remarks.

Uber and Ola have for years waged a fierce battle for supremacy in India, a market with 1.3 billion potential customers. The country has taken on increased significance for Uber following a series of recent setbacks elsewhere in Asia.

The San Francisco-based company suspended operations in Taiwan last week, six months after selling its China operations to local rival Didi Chuxing. Didi, which is joining the battle with Uber in key foreign markets, is one of Ola’s investors.

In India, Uber often catches up with its Bangalore-based rival. Ola’s most recent local delivery service – allowing Indian users to book a car for an entire day – was offered by Ola in 85 cities.

Ola also allows users to book one of India’s popular three-wheeler rickshaws, a service Uber started but then discontinued in 2015.

“It has helped us take such a deep interest in understanding what users want,” says Jivrajka.

Related: Uber rivals are teaming up in Asia

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

“We are at a loss, but we see a path towards profit,” Kalanick said during a December visit to Delhi. “We find ourselves here for the long haul.”

Related: Uber suspends service in Taiwan because of increased fines

India hasn’t always been a simple 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 the dispute.

Jivrajka did not comment on the protests, but said that Ola’s main focus remains on bringing more drivers to its platform.

“We need more drivers because the growth rate of demand is higher than the aggregate rate of supply,” he said.

Related: Uber CEO withdraws from Trump’s business advisory board

Jivrajka also has some advice for another Silicon Valley giant hoping to enter India: electric car maker Tesla.

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

– Manveena Suri contributed reporting

CNNMoney (Bangalore, India) Originally published February 13, 2017: 8:48 AM ET Indian rival slams Uber’s business model

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