Ridesharing newcomer Ola says it's signed up 4,000 drivers and clocked 25,000 rides since it launched in NZ on November 6.

The Indian-founded company has used a 9 per cent commission rate to lure drivers, significantly under-cutting Uber (25 or 28 per cent, depending if a driver is GST-registered) and the 15 per cent clip of the ticket taken by home-grown Zoomy.

Ola's NZ country manager, Brian Dewil (last seen in charge of the now defunct Urban Sherpa) concedes 9 per cent is a sweetener to help kick things off. His company's commission rate will double to 18 per cent after the promotion period ends, but it won't go any higher, he says.

Fifty per cent discounts and "tempered" use of surge pricing are being used to attract customers.


That means drivers are getting a bigger share of a smaller pie. Dewil says Ola is subsidising fares to make sure drivers get a good income, among other incentives.

More than 18,000 people have downloaded the Ola app, says Dewil.

"That's exceeded our expectations," he says.

Brian Dewil, Ola New Zealand country manager. Photo / Supplied.
Brian Dewil, Ola New Zealand country manager. Photo / Supplied.

This morning Uber told the Herald it has 6,500 drivers in NZ, with more than 485,000 riders.

Zoomy, backed by the rich list Spencer family said it had 3,536 drivers registered.

Chairman Ben Unger did not want to comment on customer numbers, but did say "We are happy with the activity rate - which is a far better indicator than just registered riders." (Ola's figures imply each driver had six rides over the company's first month in NZ, albeit in the context of a launch, with activity increasing.)

Double and triple-dipping

Dewil didn't have stats on how many of his drivers were double or triple-dipping, but he said he expected New Zealand to follow the pattern of the US and other countries "where drivers sign up to as many apps as possible to maximise their income."

While Uber is often criticised for not extending employee benefits to its partner-drivers, the contractor relationship does mean the are free to install Zoomy and Ola's apps as well - and to take the highest-paying ride that comes in.


Unger says some drivers also still work part-time as traditional taxi drivers.

Ola was founded in India in 2011.

Dewil says it now has 125 million users in its home country and clocks up around 1 billion rides per year.

Over the past 10 months, it's begun to expand internationally, setting up shop in the UK, Australia and now New Zealand.

Uber has expanded its NZ operation with Uber Eats and attendant support for virtual restaurants.

And via its "multi-modal" push, Uber has poured hundreds of millions into e-scooter startup Lime and e-bike operator Jump.

Dewil says Ola has an equivalent service to Uber Eats in India, but there are no immediate plans to launch it here.

His immediate focus is on the more meat-and-potatoes challenge of negotiating access to Christchurch Airport, which he expects to happen from March.

Ola already has airport access deals at Auckland and Wellington.

Dewil says he will concentrate on the three main centres for the time being, with no immediate expansion plans.