Ola goes offline to widen its customer base

Ola Offline, which can be booked via SMS and piloted in June last year in smaller cities such as Nagpur and Indore, will now be available in four metros


Ola, valued at $5 billion, is India’s third-most valuable start-up and is one of the most closely watched new companies in the country. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Ola, valued at $5 billion, is India’s third-most valuable start-up and is one of the most closely watched new companies in the country. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Mumbai: Cab hailing service Ola Tuesday introduced a feature called Ola Offline to book cabs through a text message in a bid to increase its customer base.

In a statement, ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd, which owns Ola said only 34% of the population has access to internet. “A vast majority of the populace even today, struggles to get adequate data connectivity at all times… with the launch of Ola Offline, Ola is aiming to reach out to these people… The feature will be available across all cab categories viz. Micro, Mini, Prime and Lux,” it said.

Available through “Book via SMS” option, Ola Offline was piloted in June last year in smaller cities such as Nagpur and Indore. Now, the company is planning to launch a similar facility in four metro cities.

“Introduction of offline booking option will help the company enhance customer experience and also make up for the missed opportunities or failed bookings due to network challenges,” Ankit Bhati, chief technology officer, co-founder, Ola, said over the phone.

“We know that poor or patchy internet connectivity is a common occurrence in India, as much as one in ten times. Since mobility, unlike e-commerce, is consumed on the go, it is important for us to address this need for our consumers, to offer them a superior experience at all times,” Bhati added.

With an aim to expand the offline feature to 102 cities, where Ola currently operates through a fleet of 450,000 vehicles on its platform, this is the cab-hailing company’s attempt to expand its market share as the competition stiffens with US-based rival Uber.

Ola, valued at $5 billion, is India’s third-most valuable start-up and is one of the most closely watched new companies in the country. Uber is the world’s most valuable start-up.

Ola and Uber are fighting for dominance of India’s cab business that may be worth $7 billion by 2020, according to Softbank.

Ola in July announced a feature called Ola Hotspots that will suggest a landmark closest to the customer as a hotspot and send it to the driver in areas such as malls where there are multiple entry and exit gates and the user spends a lot of time to locate the driver.

On the other hand, an on-demand cab hailing service, Uber in September launched a feature to book cabs in advance—an additional booking option that Ola have already had since its inception in 2011.

Mint reported in March that as the market share battle between Ola and Uber intensified over the past one year, both companies had released a series of numbers—contrary to each others’ claims. While Ola claimed 75% market share, Uber stated 50%.

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