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Online cab booking service Olacabs now allows its mobile app users in Mumbai to book the ubiquitous Kaali-Peeli taxis in Mumbai. The company said that over 2000 such cabs have been registered on the Ola platform so far and the service is currently restricted to South Mumbai. The registered Kaali-Peeli drivers are equipped with a smartphone that enables them to accept booking requests and navigate to the customer’s doorstep. It’s worth noting that the Ola app only allows commuters to book the cab, and the fare has to be settled with the cab driver.

The company said it plans to extend this service to the entire city over the next 12 months and claimed that over 20,000 Kaali-Peeli taxis will be brought on the mobile platform by end of this year.

How it works: Each registered Kaali-Peeli cab driver has been provided a mobile device similar to a regular Ola cab. Users can see all cabs (Kaali-Peelis and Ola cabs) near his/her location and select one. Once the user enters the drop location and confirms the request, drivers in the area are alerted through their devices. Once a driver accepts the booking request, the user receives a message with all relevant ride details. The driver receives navigational info to reach the user. Users can also track the cab till it reaches or share ride details with others.

Our Take

The main pain point with traditional cabs in Mumbai is availability during peak hours: customers are often left waiting for hours for an empty taxi to arrive; the situation gets worse when it rains, since more people then prefer to take a cab than walk to a train station. Pre-booking a cab would be really useful, but it remains to be seen whether cab drivers actually honor these bookings, and drive past others waiting on the side of the road.

In that context, we’re not sure if Ola could have offered a higher fare to cab drivers, when the journey is booked through the app: we’re not sure if that is legally tenable for government licensed cabs which have to charge fare as per the rate card. Allowing consumer to pay through the app would have been useful too. Olacabs is exclusively concentrating on its ‘city taxi’ service as it stopped accepting rental bookings last month.

Interestingly, there’s a cab booking service called KaaliPeeliCabs.com in Delhi that allows commuters to book the traditional city cabs. Also, the fare is clearly outlined on the website.

Other developments

– Last month, Olacabs launched an in-app prepaid wallet to offer cashless taxi rides to customers and stay within RBI’s recurring rules. Users can recharge their wallet through credit or debit card or through net banking for anything between Rs 100 and Rs 5000, and use this to pay for taxi rides.

– In July, 2014 Olacabs had raised Rs 250 crore in an investment round led by Steadview Capital and Sequoia Capital with participation from existing investors Tiger Global and Matrix Partners.

– It had raised Series B investment from Tiger Global and Matrix Partners in November last year and had secured its Series A funding from Tiger Global Management in April 2012. It had also received angel funding from investors like Rehan Yar Khan and Shaadi.com group founder Anupam Mittal among others in April 2011.

(with inputs from Nikhil Pahwa)