Understanding local market key to winning cab aggregation game

Anand Subramanian, Sr. Director – Marketing Communications, Ola (Image: Sandeep Patil)
Anand Subramanian, Sr. Director – Marketing Communications, Ola (Image: Sandeep Patil)

Ola has a few firsts on its name: be it the first in India to launch a mobile app to book a cab; booking autorickshaws on an app; operator model or an aggregation model. All these are market segments that Ola wants to create, having a grip over how transportation in India operates. On the same line, Ola recently launched ‘Ola Operator’ – built for entrepreneurs who have grown from one car to many on the Ola platform over the years, as well as operators who own cars, but employ drivers, to work on the platform. With this launch, Ola aims to add tens of thousands of new operators onto its platform, including driver-partners who’ve turned entrepreneurs, operators in the business of transportation, as well as aspiring first-time entrepreneurs who would like to be part of the mobility ecosystem with minimal time commitment. Abhishek Raval from Express Computer and Mohit Rathod from Express Travel World did a quick chat with Anand Subramanian, Sr. Director – Marketing Communications, Ola on a range of topics.

The marketplace model in the cab aggregation space is large and awash with funds, coming into this business. Apart from having a smart technology platform, what’s required to win the game?

Technology is just one element. The larger element is understanding of the local market. Ola is a homegrown and a local brand. We have pioneered various models – be it the operator model, aggregation model etc. We were the first aggregator to set shop in the country. Also the first to get a mobile app to book a cab and the first to book autorickshaws on a mobile app. All these were unthinkable. This is the crux. To play the game in consonance with how the local travel ecosystem is. This is the key differentiator.

So, how can technology play the role in this background – to support the knowledge of the local conditions?

In India, for example, the autorickshaw driver in Chennai can see his app in Tamil and a driver in Maharashtra in Marathi. We have customised languages basis the regional requirements. This comes from the understanding that literacy levels are low. The technology that we have built like GPS, navigation, mapping are all very intuitive. Someone who is not savvy, will not struggle with the phone. It is made so simple that the driver will find it extremely easy to use. There are other innovations that we are working on in the Ola Innovation labs.

Vehicle efficiency is a determinant of the earnings that Ola gets. Any plans of using technology to improve efficiency ?

Ola doesn’t own any vehicles. It’s run by operators. We have partnerships with large car manufacturers. One of the recent being Nissan with whom we are working a lot on future vehicle platforms and the likes. Ola has recently launched the leasing subsidiary for Ola for drivers who may not want to take financing to buy a car can come to the Ola’s leasing subsidiary, take a car on lease, pay a monthly rental and give the car back or buy the car after three years for a nominal depreciated value. All this has been enabled on a technology platform and each of these partnerships help us better understand the customer needs and business. Over time, we will be happy to work with these companies to figure out what the next customer need could be.

Are you planning Siri like applications for the drivers ?

The drivers are looking for a more touch feel experience even currently. All that he has to do is switch on the app, log in, it’s more or less touch free. The driver has to start the trip and stop the trip. However there is enough scope for innovation. Both for drivers and operators.

What’s in the works at the Ola Innovation Labs ?
There are ideas and innovations we are working on. At Ola, we have the Innovation Labs, with a team of 20-25 experts. We have implemented Auto-connect Wi-fi. Anytime, the customer board an Ola-prime or Ola Lux, the Wi-fi automatically connects without the need for log-in. We plan to take it to other modes of travel including Autos registered on the Ola platform.

The second is improving experience on low network areas, which is good for customers and drivers.

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