The Australian head of Ola, Simon Smith, has left his role at the rideshare company, amid reports the business may be reducing its operations in the Australian market.
A report from The Sydney Morning Herald suggests Ola is closing up much of its operations in Australia, as driver offices around the country close, due to COVID-19.
It’s not currently clear whether these closures are permanent or not.
But, the SMH report suggests redundancies have gone ahead.
It also quotes one employee saying they “can’t see how it is feasible” for the business to survive.
Ola previously employed about 50 Australians. After redundancies, that’s reportedly down to 11.
Ola first launched in Australia in 2018, where it was competing in an already crowded market. As well as taking on market leader Uber, it was also up against the likes of Taxify, GoCatch and Didi, which launched at about the same time.
Initially rolling out in Perth in February 2018, it quickly expanded to Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Gold Coast, Brisbane and Adelaide too.
Ola has confirmed the departure of Simon Smith, however, it has not responded to a request for comment on the circumstances surrounding his leaving the company, or on the broader changes to the business.
It’s not clear how much of the change is related to the effects of COVID-19 on the ridesharing industry.
Speaking to SmartCompany in July, Smith said the number of bookings had been trending downwards even before the government put COVID-19 restrictions in place.
Once stay-at-home orders were issued, “our bookings were hit very severely”, he said.
But, by taking the international company back to its startup roots and pivoting to implement new safety standards, he said things were starting to turn around.
Smith claimed that, once restrictions started to ease in some parts of the country, the business was starting to see growth.
“Our bookings there are on track for quickly getting back to pre-COVID and possibly even better than that,” he said.
He added, however, that the sector is changing. Rather than people using rideshare for work, he suggested, there may be an uptick in the social use case.
Drivers are delivering people to their mates’ houses, a suburb or two away, rather than to CBD bars and pubs, he suggested.
“We expect that behaviour to stay in place for a while.”