Ride-sharing giant Ola just recruited a former eBay CEO to run its Australian operations

SuppliedOla’s new Australian managing director, Simon Smith

Six months after it began its rollout in Australia, Indian ride-sharing business Ola has recruited as its local managing director.

Simon Smith, a former eBay Australia CEO, Sportsbet director, VP of Virtual Offices at Servcorp, and McKinsey consultant, comes aboard six months after Ola first launched in Perth.

It’s now in five capitals, including Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane, as well as the Gold Coast, with plans to launch in Adelaide soon and Darwin and Hobart “in the near future”.

Its rapid expansion sees $5 billion ridesharing app claim it now has close to 40,000 driver-partners registered Australia-wide, up 33% in just six weeks.

But Smith takes on the role in a highly competitive market that includes US pioneer Uber, Estonian-based Taxify and Australian startup GoCatch, with the companies offering ongoing discounts in a bid to grab market share.

Nearly four months after launching in Sydney, Ola is still offering individually targeted discounts to its customers of between 20% and 50% on rides. It attracts drivers with one of the industry’s lowest commission rates at 7.5%, as well as daily payments.

Ola, founded in 2011, is backed by Chinese internet giant Tencent, as well as Japanese multinational Softbank, which tipped in $US1.1 billion in funding late last year. The company has yet to make a profit, predicting it will finally be in the black by 2018-19.

Smith’s role includes strategy, marketing, product development, customer service, and engagement with driver-partners and other stakeholders.

“I relish building organisations from the ground up and I am delighted to join the ranks at Ola,” he said.

Co-founder and CEO Bhavish Aggarwal, said Smith was a “very entrepreneurial and strategic leader”.

“He will lead Ola’s mission to build the future of mobility in Australia and create impact for the millions of consumers and tens of thousands of driver partners,” he said.

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