Uber, Ola spar over ‘nationalism’ charge


The Ola versus Uber spat took another ugly turn on Thursday with Ola’s COO Pranay Jivrajka accusing Uber (without specifically naming it) of not following the laws of the land.

 Referring to an Uber blog on Tuesday that indicated that Ola had accused Uber of being “foreign”, Jivrajka said it is a shame that “our competition has to fan a debate of nationalism to hide their identity of being a multinational, with serial violations of law as a business strategy, not just in India, but globally. This debate in our view is not about foreign vs local but who is respectful of the local laws and who is disrespectful.” Jivrajka pointed to instances where Uber allegedly did not follow India’s laws. “When competition entered in India, they launched with a ‘card on file’ payment system. This was in gross violation of RBI regulations, yet they continued this for more than a year, full knowing the violation, and it took an ultimatum from the governor of the RBI to make them fall in line,” he wrote, and noted that Ola, respecting the law of the land, chose not to do this and had to face significant business disadvantage of losing customers.

On Tuesday, Uber’s GM for Bengaluru Bhavik Rathod had issued a blog post in response to an affidavit filed by Ola in a court hearing that appeared to call Uber “foreign”. Rathod wrote that Uber has the deepest respect for the laws of India. “What makes Uber ‘foreign’? The fact that we are established in San Francisco but have a hyperlocal team solving problems that are locally relevant. Or that, just like our competitors, we received most of our funding from ‘foreign’ investors,” he said.

Ola has also got most of its funding from global companies, including Japan’s SoftBank Jivrajka, despite saying the debate is not about foreign vs local, goes on to suggest that companies run by local entrepreneurs are more valuable to the country than foreign ones. “Isn’t a company like Alibaba, run by a local entrepreneur like Jack Ma, ‘Chinese,’ despite having a majority of its shareholding from international investors? Aren’t the cutting edge technology

 solutions, high value jobs and internet ecosystem that Alibaba has built, invaluable assets for China?” he wrote.He also says it is the onus of the business that brings in transformative technology, to work with the government and evolve the ecosystem further in a partnership mode. “It is only detrimental to the nation’s interests to take a confrontational approach,” he wrote, referring apparently to Uber taking the Karnataka government’s guidelines on cab aggregators to court.

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