Cab hailing app Ola today added Hyderabad to the list of cities where it will be offering its connected car platform for ride-sharing called ‘Ola Play.’ This makes Hyderabad the fourth city after Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru where riders would get a chance to experience the Ola Play platform. The platform brings advance car controls, choice of personalised content and a fully-connected interactive experience for users on the move.
Ola had launched the feature in Ola Prime cabs in three cities for select customers last November.
Anand Subramanian, Senior Director, Marketing Communication, Ola, told Inc42, “India does not experience a large amount of personal car ownership. Despite that, cars are being designed keeping in mind the driver, with all controls and the experience up front, (with the drivers). Ola Play moves the needle on that. It moves the control of experience back to the customer sitting in the back seat.”
A More Relevant Experience For The Ride Sharing World
Ankit Jain, Head Of Ola Play, further elaborated on the concept.
“The car, historically, was always built with the driver in mind and in going from point A to point B. But for a ride sharing company like us, that essentially doesn’t work. Because it’s all about the passenger. You want the controls of the car (apart from the driving). You want the car to be personalised for the passenger not for the driver. So Ola Play is solving this problem of personalisation to an extent,” he explained.
Consequently, Ola Play is working with several partners such as Qualcomm, Mahindra and Mahindra, Apple Music, Sony LIV, Audio Compass, Fynd, and newer ones like Arré, Filter Copy, AIB, and many more.
The idea is simple – to provide a more relevant in-cab experience to increase loyalty and retention. Though the duo failed to disclose the exact percentage points by which Ola Play’s introduction has impacted customer retention, they did state the response has been hugely positive.
Playing On Hyderabad
It was this need for customer retention, which led to the expansion of the service to Hyderabad, where Ola had launched its services in May 2014. Additionally, besides the Prime category, Ola Play will also be available in the Rentals and Outstation category.
Reveals Anand, “Hyderabad was one of our top cities to extend Ola Play, as an average ride in Hyderabad tends to be between 40 to 60 minutes, which is sort of a sweet spot to the feature as it gives customer enough time to engage with the experience.”
He added that Hyderabad has about 50,000 driver partners, with more of them coming aboard.
Additionally, launching it for categories like Rental and Outstation in Prime also follows the same logic – both tend to be much longer and provide enough time for engagement. To start with, 2,000 cars will have Ola Play in place initially, while over the next few months, it will be available in all of the Prime category cars.
Ankit added that the plan is to cover all Tier I cities one by one, in the next few months.
No Monetisation, Only Differentiation
When asked about Play’s monetisation plans, Ankit stated that currently Ola is not looking to monetise through the service, only focussing on improving the customer experience.
“Primary monetisation is customers coming back again on an Ola Play car. That in itself ensures more customers on board,’ he said.
Hence, with monetisation out of the picture, Ola’s strategy is to leverage Ola Play for major differentiation against competition, namely Uber, which does not yet have an in-cab entertainment system in India at the moment.
“I think experience is something no one is focussing on the ride-sharing industry. The majority of the time is spent in the car whereas the focus and innovations have been restricted to pre-booking and post-booking – not so much on the true ride, per se, where 99% of the time is spent (by the customer),” he surmised.
And that is how Ola aims to cash on this differentiator – by providing people a better in-car experience in the largest segment of their ride. How well will Ola Play play out for Ola which has had a bumpy 2016 will be revealed in due course.
Founded by Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, in January 2011, Ola has raised total equity funding of $1.25 Bn in eight rounds from about 20 investors such as Tiger Global, DST Global, and Softbank. For the moment, with its latest funding round of $350 Mn from existing and new investors last month, which valued it at $3.5 Bn, the cab hailing app looks in a good position to play on for 2017. Prior to launching Ola Play last November, a month before in October 2016 , it also launched the feature of offline booking on the app.