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Online cab booking service Ola (previously Olacabs) has started piloting an on-demand autorickshaw service on its mobile app in Bangalore, allowing users to book auto rickshaw rides in the city.

Quite similar to its cab booking service, users can view autos nearest to their location on the app and make the booking. The fare payable is the regular meter fare plus Rs 10 as convenience fee. Interestingly, one has to enter the drop-off point before an auto driver accepts the booking.

The availability of autos is limited at the moment, possibly because the service is still in a pilot phase. An Economic Times report states that Ola has roped in 300 autos for the pilot phase and each of these autos are equipped with a Huawei handset to enable auto booking and tracking.

Also, worth noting is that Ola’s recently launched in-app wallet doesn’t work here and users have to currently pay the auto driver through cash. However, it’s possible that Ola might add wallet support after the pilot ends.

Interestingly, a Deccan Chronicle report also cites an auto union member who says that Ola is paying auto drivers Rs 10,000 per month on top of the fare, plus Rs 1,500 as mobile charges.

This looks like one of the more critical moves from Ola and there is also significant opportunity for the company, considering that hiring an auto is still a dreadful experience where users have to resort to haggling and bargaining with auto drivers on a regular basis.

What’s going to be challenging though is getting more auto rickshaw drivers on board when they already view these cab booking services as competitors. Earlier this year, Ola had launched its low-cost cab offering called Ola Mini that offers fares lower than Auto rickshaws in Bangalore. Ola Mini charges Rs 10 per kilometer while Auto rickshaws charges Rs 13 per kilometer. This has led to many consumers opting for cabs over auto rickshaws for their daily commute.

Kaali-Peeli taxis: Last month, Olacabs had also started allowing users in Mumbai to book Kaali-Peeli taxis on their app. The company had claimed to have over 2,000 taxis were already registered on its platform and had stated plans of bringing over 20,000 Kaali-Peeli taxis onboard by end of the year.

Competitors

Earlier this year, Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) had also launched an Android app called PoochO that enabled Delhi commuters to locate auto rickshaws near them, contact them, and book trips. It also provided information on estimated fare, trip distance, travel time, and traffic condition on any selected route. PoochO doesn’t charge any fee, though commuters need to pay for the extra distance travelled by the auto to reach them.

Other players in this space include Bangalore-based call auto service mGaadi that claims to have over 7000 auto drivers in its network, as of September this year. mGaadi also charges a Rs 10 pickup fee and the fare is payable as per meter directly to the driver. It’s worth noting that mGaadi doesn’t accept bookings for trips to locations less than 5 kms from the commuters’ pickup point.

There is also Pune-based Autowale which offers door-to-door pickup and drop services, along with hourly packages and the ability to book autos on a recurring basis.