- Ola, an Indian ride-hailing firm, launched its operations in London on Monday, giving strong competition to the likes of Uber and Bolt.
- The Softbank-backed firm is offering users discounts and drivers zero commissions in order to lure numbers.
- The app has stronger safety features with options like a start code to give to the driver before the journey begins.
Ola, a ride-hailing app launched in London on Monday and I decided to take a ride and find out just how different it is from its peers.
But I am not new to Ola. I have taken many Ola rides during vacations in India where Ola has become the standard means of transport and is more popular than Uber. My parents, who weren’t the most app-savvy till about a few years ago, have switched to Ola instead of taking their Hyundai out and so has a large part of the smartphone-savvy Indian population. However, back in London, it’s always been Uber or Kapten for me. But I decided to give Ola a try on Monday evening and here’s how I think it’s different from its peers.
I took a short journey, and used the £5 ($6.46) introductory voucher from Ola. The app is pretty straightforward and easy to use. It gives you the option to add a few stops, and a range of cars to choose from. These are categorized as “Comfort,” “Comfort XL” and Exec. Upon selecting your choice of car, a waiting time is shown and you are then connected to Ola drivers in your area.
I selected a Comfort Ola, with a waiting time of 5 minutes. Now, here’s where Ola is different from all the other ride-hailing services I have taken. Once you confirm your ride, the app sends you a start code, which is written on the left hand corner of the app. When you sit in the car, the driver asks for this code in order to start the journey. Without this code, a journey cannot be activated.
Spriha Srivastava/Business Insider
I sat in my ride and was welcomed by the driver as his “first Ola customer.” The driver, David, whose name we changed because of privacy concerns, said he worked for all the ride-hailing apps in London. This includes a long list of Uber, Bolt, Kapten, ViaVan and now Ola. Upon asking him which one he likes the best, he said Bolt because they cut the lowest commission from drivers.
“Ola is currently offering zero commissions till March 20. I am not sure what happens after that,” he said.
David, however, wasn’t very pleased with the launch of another ride-hailing app.
“It’s the same customers but more companies. As drivers, we don’t have loyalty toward any of them. It will be so easy if there was a single service for both drivers and riders,” he said.
While on the ride, I began playing around with the app and realized another feature that was very different from Ola’s peers – the safety icon. It is conveniently placed on the right-hand side, at the top of the app. Upon clicking it, you get an alarming red message that asks you to swipe in the event of an emergency and promises the safety team will be in contact immediately.
Ola promises a 24/7 customer care support and has been offering vouchers in order to lure riders. The Indian ride-hailing app’s launch on Monday saw front-page ads as well as a huge presence on social media. The company, which has raised close to $3.8 billion from Softbank, gives Uber and its peers another rival to battle in the increasingly crowded ride-hailing space.