We missed this earlier. Online cab aggregator Ola added bus shuttle services to its platform starting last week, reports Techcrunch. The service is currently available only in Bangalore and Gurgaon, with Ola claiming to have 500 shuttles covering 100 routes in these cities. Note that we had reported in July that Ola might start aggregating tourist & charter buses on its app.
Apparently, Ola earlier completed a pilot of the project with 20 routes and 100 shuttles. According to a Trak report, Ola will be investing over $50 million in this initiative. The company mentions that the prices for the shuttles will be less than Rs 60 (or $1), while operating exactly like Ola cabs.
The service is directly accessible from the Ola app as a separate option. For users, real time info on shuttles plying on relevant routes will be displayed, post which the user can book a shuttle and go to the nearest point on the shuttle’s route where they will be picked up. The shuttles, like cabs, are privately owned, but provide 12 to 20 seats and can only be booked if there are empty seats available.
As of now, the bus booking/sharing market is in the nascent stages with very few players, although sharing a bus has significant advantages (lower pollution, fewer vehicles on the street, high efficiencies etc.) over cabs. Other startups in this field include ZipGo that offers its services in Bangalore, Shuttl that serves in Delhi NCR and Cityflo that operates in Mumbai.
Earlier this month, Ola confirmed to MediaNama that it would launch its own ridesharing services, probably to be known as Ola Share. This announcement came two days after rival Uber announced that it would roll out its car-pooling product UberPOOL in Bangalore in beta by October.
API for developers:
Earlier this week, Ola opened up its API for developers, letting them integrate the platform’s services on their apps. The API would allow platforms to integrate ride availability, booking and tracking and time estimation services based on Ola’s data. Note that competitor Uber >launched its API in August last year.
Rider number masking:
Last week, Ola introduced a feature called ‘number masking’ where the user’s number would not be disclosed to drivers, and calls made by the drivers would be recorded and stored by Ola, across its operational cities in India. The company has integrated a cloud telephony solution which sends an encrypted number to the driver, through which all further communication is routed via the cloud number.
Cab leasing program for drivers:
The week before, Ola, which raised $225 million in a round of funding from existing investors and new investors, launched a cab leasing program for drivers which would let drivers lease a car for a deposit and monthly lease payments, with an option to own the vehicle after 3 years. The company said that it had piloted the program with 1,000 vehicles in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and 3 other cities, for which it sourced vehicles from Maruti Suzuki.
Free WiFi for Prime cabs under loyalty program:
The same week, Ola added free WiFi, ‘superior cars’, best rated drivers, through its ‘Select’ program for riders taking Ola Prime rides in Bangalore. Ola Prime is available in Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi, Pune, Chennai and Jaipur and is a drop service through sedans and SUVs. Ola launched the rewards and loyalty program called ‘Ola Select’ for its frequent customers last month. At that time, Select users would be able to use free WiFi, no-cost upgrades and discounts.
Drivers charged for using the platform:
This month, Ola and rival Uber started charging their drivers Rs 300 a week to try and prevent them from using other aggregating platforms. This charge, which applies regardless of usage, is being attributed to phone, mobile Internet connections and other services provided by the aggregators.