Ride-hailing company Ola has acquired Mumbai-based public transport ticketing and commuting service Ridlr in an all-stock deal. Ridlr, which was founded in 2012 has been able to work with BEST, and Mumbai and Delhi Metro services to allow ticketing and other conveniences such as real-time tracking.
Ridlr’s team of 64 employees will join Ola, along with Brijraj Vaghani, founder of Ridlr continuing to lead operations for the company. While Ridlr has run several pilots in other cities, it has found it hard to expand its service to more than two or three transport operators. In July 2016, Ridlr had raised about $6 million from investors like Matrix Partners India and Times Internet. It did not receive any significant funding since. Livemint which first reported the possible sale last month had noted that this was a distress sale.
Talking about the acquisition, an Ola employee told the Economic Times that, “Ola will eventually have riders that use not only cabs but buses and trains as well. This acquisition will enable accurate tracking of public transportation options, as accurate as what Ola is currently offering for its cabs on the app.” This shows that Ola wants to integrate existing public transport services onto its platform by offering real-time tracking and ticketing. What will be interesting to note is if Ola sees this as a value addition to its cab-hailing service or if it plans to monetise this somehow.
The thing that will help Ola is that several state-run transport services are considering or testing real-time tracking and mobile payments. Business Standard reports that Bengaluru’s BMTC will even consider offering an API to developers.
What remains unclear is if the Ridlr app will still remain active or will it services be folded into Ola’s app.
Ola’s past attempts at mass transit
In February, the company shut down its bus service Ola Shuttle. At the time the company told Medianama that the shutdown was a “re-balancing of portfolios”. The shutdown meant Ola had to terminate its bus services on many routes across the National Capital Region, Mumbai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. The company told bus operators that their services would not be required after February 2 and the drivers were asked to return their smartphones, GPS devices and cameras.
Ola’s shuttle service had run into problems with transport authorities in various cities. In April 2017, Bangalore’s transport department had issued a notice to Ola for flouting its license conditions by running shuttle services in the city. Authorities had also seized nine vehicles near Manyatha Tech Park, Jayanagar, and Koramangala. Transport Commissioner HG Kumar had then said that Ola might face suspension of their entire service and had been given 15 days to reply.
In 2015, Ola Shuttle ran into trouble with Delhi’s transport authority and had to suspend its operations in December. At the time, Ola Shuttle had not obtained permits for shuttle services.
Ola’s recent expansions and acquisitions
The development comes following Ola raising $1.1 billion in October led by Tencent Holdings Limited and existing investor SoftBank. SoftBank is also a common investor in its rival Uber which picked up 15% stake in the company for an investment of $1.25 billion along with other investors.
In February, Ola announced its entry into the Australian market, beginning with operation in three cities: Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth. It has been reported that apart from Australia and possibly New Zealand, Ola may also expand to other countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and has teams in Dhaka and Colombo.
In December 2017, Ola acquired food delivery app Foodpanda from its Germany-based parent Delivery Hero Group. In its second attempt at food delivery after OlaCafe shutdown, Ola plans to invest $200 million into the Foodpanda India business. Foodpanda India claims to have around 15,000 restaurant partners across 100 cities in India.