Ola appoints Ebay exec as new Australian MD


Ola, a ride-sharing platform, is strengthening its presence in Australia with the appointment of Simon Smith as Managing Director. Smith will head and develop the leadership team and play a pivotal role in building Ola’s presence including strategy, marketing, product development, customer service, and engagement with driver-partners and other stakeholders.

Smith’s previous roles include Chief Executive Officer of eBay Australia, Non-Executive Director of Sportsbet, VP of Virtual Offices at Servcorp and a consultant at McKinsey and Company.

Speaking of his new position, Simon Smith, Managing Director, Ola Australia, said, “I relish building organisations from the ground up and I am delighted to join the ranks at Ola. It’s rare to find a brand like Ola that has built its success on a community-first approach, and that is committed to giving driver-partners a better deal with industry-leading commissions.”

Ola is currently available in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Brisbane and the Gold Coast and shortly will launch in Adelaide.

Dynamic Business had a chat to Smith about Ola and his new position.

DB: What makes this app different to Uber?

SS: Ola is a community-oriented transportation platform that’s driver focussed. We are finding Australian customers deeply care whether drivers are getting a fair deal and are choosing Ola because of that. Driver-partners are earning more through lower commissions and customers benefit from lower tariffs than other platforms. By enabling driver-partners to provide the best experience possible, customers in turn enjoy high-quality journeys.

What do you say to commentators who say that the ride sharing market is becoming saturated? How do you combat this?

Australia is an attractive market in that it values fair competition and we think both customers and drivers have had limited options to choose between. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the response and adoption of our solution by both customers and drivers, which in many ways has exceeded our expectations. Drivers are clearly responding to having a viable ride-share platform that offers higher earnings and customers have been rapidly adopting the platform as we continue to build scale.

What are the top three things that appealed to investors most about Ola?

As Ola’s Managing Director for Australia operations, I am focused in winning in the market. We have an investor relations team, which engages with investors, however from a larger ecosystem standpoint, I would say:

  • Ola is one of the world’s largest ride-sharing companies that is committed to its mission of building mobility for a billion people in Australia and India
  • We are a community-oriented transportation platform. We’re also focused on community initiatives like town hall-style meetings with our driver-partners and other unique initiatives, which has seen word spreading among the industry that we’re a better transportation platform
  • Ola’s rapid growth and expansion has been made possible by taking a driver-partner focussed approach to ride-sharing to offer best-in-class transport experiences. Ola is giving both driver-partners and passengers a fairer and better way to move.

As the new Managing Director what will be your first plan of action?

My goal is to meet our driver-partners and customers to understand how we can better serve them.

What appealed to you about Ola?

I was interested in leading a business that is community-oriented, growing quickly, has technology at the heart and a ‘data for good’ approach where data is used to solve problems at the core of society. Ola provides all of those in spades!