BENGALURU: Ola, the country’s largest taxi-hailing company, has expanded into two new categories this month — outstation and rental — in a bid to complete all use cases for transportation. With outstation, acustomer can now book a cab for intercity travel, two hours in advance on the Ola app. Rental enables customers to rent a car on an hourly package basis instead of point-topoint pick up and drop, which is Ola’s core business.
With the two new launches, Ola now has a bus service called Ola Shuttle, an auto service, carpooling, a corporate offering and five categories of on-demand cab service from low-cost Micro to luxury-like BMWs.
Experts say Ola has changed its strategy from focusing on a horizontal expansion model and the move will help it reach its mission to reduce car ownership, given that it can sustain supply for these services at scale.
“The company may launch self-drive or on-demand drivers in future,” said Jaspal Singh, a transport analysts at Valoriser Consultants. “The company has a dedicated user base of people who are using the taxi service so it is easy to sell these services to commuters,” he added.
The move contrasts with arch rival Uber, which is focussing on expanding its low-cost category, UberGo, and Share in the 26 cities it is present in. Ola is operational in more than 100 cities.
Ola’s aggressive push to win customers comes after Uber was closing in on the company’s numbers last year, by splurging on driver incentives and customer discounts.
Ola is relying on its understanding of local dynamics and is creating solutions specifically for the Indian market to maintain its lead.
ET had reported in March that SoftBank-backed Ola was restructuring its business to step up focus and investment in its core taxi service after pulling down the shutters on experiments such as food and grocery delivery.
Since then, it has not just launched new categories to widen its scope of offerings but also paid attention to improving customer experience, such as by providing free WiFi to customers of its premium Prime service. The company is also working closely with China’sDidi Chuxing, which picked up a stake in Ola last year, on how to beat Uber.
Earlier this month, Uber raised $3.5 billion (about Rs 23,000 crore) from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and said it will continue to invest in India to increase its pool of drivers, improve technology and add categories such as bike taxis. Bennett, Coleman & Co, the publisher of this newspaper, holds a minority stake in Uber.