Online cab aggregator Ola has appointed Simon Smith as Managing Director for its operations in Australia, the company said in a release.  In his new role, Smith will head and develop the leadership team, and will be responsible for building Ola’s presence in the country. In his previous roles, Smith has worked as the Chief Executive Officer of eBay Australia, and Non-Executive Director of Sportsbet, VP of Virtual Offices at Servcorp and as a consultant at McKinsey and Company.

The move is seen as an effort to strengthen the homegrown company’s presence In Australia, where it launched operations in January. Ola is currently available in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and the Gold Coast and shortly will launch in Adelaide. The company claims to have close to 40,000 driver-partners in the region. Apart from it’s arch rival Uber, which has a strong presence in Australia with a fleet of around 82,000 active drivers, Ola will also have to compete with Europe-based Taxify and Chinese taxi company Didi.

Driver-centric approach

Smith, however, remains optimistic about the challenge. In an interview to Business News Australia, Smith claimed that Ola is a ‘community-oriented transportation platform that’s driver focused’ and that could be a key factor in the company’s fortunes down under.

“We are finding Australian customers deeply care whether drivers are getting a fair deal and are choosing Ola because of that. Driver-partners are earning more through lower commissions and customers benefit from lower tariffs than other platforms,” he explained to Business news Australia.

Ola’s driver-partners are starting with a commission rate of 7.5%, a release from Ola said.  While Ola claimed it to be one of the lowest rates in the industry, It remains unclear as to what is the commission rate charged by other players in the country. Ola is also the first ride-sharing company in Australia to offer daily payments to driver-partners, the statement added.

Going forward, Smith said that the company will explore opportunities with local governments and communities around Australia, to invest in smarter transport infrastructure.

Ola’s expansion drive

Reports also revealed that the company is also considering expanding in other counties such as New Zealand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and has teams in Dhaka and Colombo. This comes after it raised $1.1 billion in October last year, led by Tencent Holdings Limited and existing investor SoftBank.  Moreover, fresh reports also point out that that cab aggregator is in talks with Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund Temasek and other investors to raise $500 million-$1 billion. According to the same report by the Economic Times, Ola was last valued at $4 billion when in September last year.