The Indian rival criticizes Uber’s business model

Ola puts Uber in the shade

Uber’s main rival in India has some unsolicited advice for the American startup: go local.

“They have a very cookie-cutter approach to what the model is and how [to] force-feed it to any geography,” said Pranay Jivrajka, a senior executive at Ola Cabs, on the sidelines of CNN’s Asia Business Forum in Bengaluru.

Jivrajka, who until recently served as Ola’s chief operating officer, 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 really want.”

Uber declined to comment on Jivrajka’s comments.

Uber and Ola have for years fought a bitter battle for supremacy in India, a market with 1.3 billion potential customers. The country has taken on growing 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 battling Uber in key overseas markets, is one of Ola’s investors.

In India, Uber has often found itself playing catch-up with its Bengaluru-based rival. Its latest local product offering, which allows Indian users to book a car for an entire day, Ola already offers in 85 cities.

Ola also allows users to book one of India’s ubiquitous three-wheeled auto rickshaws, a service that Uber started but later discontinued in 2015.

“What’s helped us is having an ear to the ground to understand what users want,” Jivrajka said.

Related: Uber rivals team up in Asia

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick insists his company is not ready to exit India.

“We’re losing, but we see a path to profitability,” Kalanick said during a December visit to Delhi. “See you here in the long run.”

Related: Uber suspends service in Taiwan as fines mount

India is not always an easy market for either company: tens of thousands of drivers representing both 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 remains to bring more drivers to its platform.

“We need more engines because the rate at which demand is increasing is much greater than the way supply is being added,” he said.

Related: Uber CEO Quits Trump’s Business Advisory Council

Jivrajka also had some advice for another Silicon Valley giant hoping to enter India: electric car maker Tesla.

“There are no rules on Indian roads,” Jivrajka said. “One thing a lot of people say is that if you can drive in India, you can drive anywhere.”

— Manveena Suri contributed to this report

CNNMoney (Bangalore, India) First published February 13, 2017: 8:48 am ET

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