Uber and Ola are now fighting about which company is most Indian

Non-indigenous startup.
Non-indigenous startup.
Image: Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee
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Taxi wars in India have taken a patriotic turn.

On June 27, home-grown ride-hailing startup Ola filed a petition in the Karnataka High Court claiming American rival Uber wasn’t complying with certain laws because it had “scant respect and concern…for the law of the land.”

Repeatedly referring to itself as an “indigenous startup” in its petition, Ola said Uber is indulging in “illegal activities with impunity and without any respect for the laws of the country.” Ola received its license to operate in the state just last week.

Ola’s statement comes at a time when the Karnataka court is separately hearing Uber’s plea seeking amendments to the state’s policies on mandatory taxi signs on vehicles, physical meters, and printers for receipts, among other things.

The two companies are fighting for dominance in Karnataka because the state’s capital city, Bengaluru, has a large number of potential customers for ride-hailing services.

In reply to Ola’s petition, Uber’s Bengaluru general manager Bhavik Rathod issued a statement today (June 28), contending his company is as Indian as Ola.

“What makes Uber ‘foreign’ ?” Rathod said. “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 called Uber “a global company with local roots.”

Uber India is working with the Karnataka government to get a license to operate in the state, Rathod said, but it sought amendments in the state’s rules because some of the current regulations could “thwart a nascent industry.”

“It’s not about ‘bypassing laws of the land,’ but it’s about building for tomorrow by participating today, so we don’t stifle the innovations that are surely coming to us tomorrow,” Rathod said.