Uber’s main rival in India has some unsolicited advice for the American startup: Go local.
“They have a very standard approach in terms of the model and how to impose it in any geography,” Ola Cabs senior executive Pranay Jivrajka said on the sidelines of CNN’s Asia Business Forum in Bangalore. .
Jivrajka, who was until recently COO of Ola, said Uber should abandon its one-size-fits-all approach and instead try to understand “local nuances” that would help it identify services that “users and drivers actually want “.
Uber declined to comment on Jivrajka’s remarks.
Uber and Ola have been engaged in a bitter battle for supremacy in India, a market with 1.3 billion potential customers, for years. The country has gained increased importance for Uber after a series of recent setbacks elsewhere in Asia.
The San Francisco-based company suspended its Taiwan operations last week, six months after selling its China operations to local rival Didi Chuxing. Didi, which is leading the battle against Uber in major overseas markets, is one of Ola’s investors.
In India, Uber has often had to catch up with its Bangalore-based rival. Its newest local product offering, allowing Indian users to book a car for an entire day, is already offered by Ola in 85 cities.
Ola also allows users to reserve one of India’s ubiquitous three-wheel auto rickshaws, a service that Uber launched but discontinued in 2015.
“What helped us was listening to the field to understand what users want,” Jivrajka said.
Read: Uber’s competitors team up in Asia
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick insists his company is not ready to leave India.
“We are losing, but we see a path to profitability,” Kalanick said during a visit to Delhi in December. “We envision ourselves being here for the long term.”
Related: Uber suspends service in Taiwan as ends pile up
India is not always an easy market for the two companies: tens of thousands of drivers representing Uber and Ola went on strike in Delhi this week, demanding better pay and benefits. The Delhi government has offered to mediate the dispute.
Jivrajka did not comment on the protests, but said Ola’s main goal remained to attract more drivers to its platform.
“We need more drivers because the rate at which demand is growing is much faster than the way supply is coming together,” he said.
Related: Uber CEO leaves Trump’s business advisory council
Jivrajka also gave some advice to another Silicon Valley giant hoping to expand into India: electric carmaker Tesla.
“There are no rules on Indian roads,” Jivrajka said. “A lot of people say if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere.”
— Manveena Suri contributed reporting
CNNMoney (Bangalore, India) First published February 13, 2017: 8:48 a.m. ET