Ride-hailing firm Ola on Thursday unveiled 'Ola Drive', a self-drive car-sharing service. The service has been initially rolled out for users in Bengaluru with Hyderabad, Mumbai, and New Delhi to follow shortly.
To build and scale up the service across several Indian cities, Ola intends to host a fleet of 20,000 cars by 2020, 50 per cent more than the fleet size of the entire industry put together. Initially, the SoftBank-backed company plans to invest about $200 million for the new platform and aims to increase this investment up to $500 million in the next couple of years, said the firm.
The development would further deepen Ola's battle with US rival Uber to capture the mobility market in India as well as take on early self-drive car-rental players such as Mahindra-backed Zoomcar and Revv, which counts Hyundai Motors among its investors. With over 200 million subscribers, the company said that ‘Ola Drive’ has the largest user base for a car-sharing service in the country.
“Ola has been deep-rooted in India’s mobility landscape, building technology-enabled transportation solutions for millions of users. Our expertise in serving millions of customers through a large fleet of vehicles across 250 plus cities has been instrumental in making ride-hailing a norm in India,” said Arun Srinivas, chief sales and marketing officer, at Ola. “Ola Drive has been built on the same DNA and will play a transformative role in defining India’s car-sharing market in the next decade.”
Ola will introduce the service to users in Bengaluru through pick-up stations located across different residential and commercial hubs. Users can choose to book a car of their choice for as little as two hours by paying a security deposit starting at Rs 2000, which Ola said makes the company’s new venture the most flexible car-sharing service in India. It would offer vehicles such as hatchbacks, SUVs, sedans and luxury cars.
“In the first phase of its roll-out, Ola Drive will be offered as a short-term self-drive car-sharing service as we look to introduce long-term subscription, corporate leasing, and more options in the times to come,” said Srinivas.
Ola conducted research with individuals with different driving experience levels to get a keen understanding of their preferences. The insights helped Ola to procure user-preferred car models, enable high-quality repairs and maintenance structures.
The company said that Ola Drive takes a refreshing look at the current self-driven car rental industry in India, by enabling users to design their own package, controlling everything from the number of kilometres and hours, to fuel inclusion. This makes the service highly customized for users, and the freedom of choice allows for “savings of up to 30 per cent over other providers,” said the company.
All Ola Drive cars across segments will come equipped with Ola’s connected car platform ‘Ola Play’, enabled through a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment device. It would also include GPS, media playback, and Bluetooth connectivity. Users will also have access to the platform’s support and safety features such as a 24/7 helpline, emergency button (which prompts an immediate call from Ola’s dedicated safety response team) and real-time tracking. The service will also include roadside assistance, to ensure a secure and comfortable driving experience, said the company.
The concept of car-sharing is very popular in Europe which has 12 million users and a fleet of over 500,000 cars, though car penetration is at 4 per cent. Closer home, China has more than 40 players in the car-sharing industry with a fleet of 400,000 cars, according to industry experts.
However, the car-sharing market in India has been largely untapped, with the most popular use case being leisure trips. The total fleet size of approximately 10,000 cars cater to a user base comprising millions of people (license holders), a large chunk of which are under the age of 30. The self-drive market potential in India is $1 billion, according to industry experts. They said that the market size has been limited due to lack of category creation, niche-category use-case and sub-optimal product experience.