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Ola’s number masking feature hides rider contact details: Privacy

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Online cab aggregator Ola has introduced a feature called ‘number masking’ where the user’s number will not be disclosed to drivers, and calls made by the drivers will be recorded and stored by Ola, across its operational cities in India.

According to its press release, the company has integrated a cloud telephony solution which sends an encrypted number to the driver, and after a user books a cab, all further communication from the driver is routed through the cloud number. Apparently, the driver will not have to pay for the calls that he/she is making, given that they’ll be routed via cloud.

Ola mentions that other features include live GPS tracking, ride details sharing and its in app SOS button, which, interestingly, sends an alert to an emergency contact (whose number and email ID must be verified), giving the user’s location, cab and driver details. Note that its competitor Uber has an Incident Response Team which receives a notification every time an Uber user presses the in app SOS button. The team receives details of the rider and the driver, after which it responds to the alert, the company’s Karun Arya told us in an interview.  

Last week, 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
Last week, Ola added free WiFi, ‘superior cars’, best rated drivers, and an opportunity to meet Narain Karthikeyan, Abish Mathew and Milind Soman 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, discounts and ‘exclusive benefits’ from partners Myntra, Snapdeal andCleartrip.

Kolkata’s yellow taxis added to Ola
Last month, Ola introduced Kolkata’s yellow taxis on its platform. The company claimed to have over a 1,000 yellow taxis on the app at that time and said that it would register overall 5,000 taxis in the next 3 months. Ola provided the taxi drivers with smartphones which would help them accept rides and navigate to the location.

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.

Also read: Ola’s Anand Subramanian on TFS integration, user expectations, smaller city expansions & more

Our Ola coverage here.

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