‘We Have Al­ways Been a Driver and Com­mu­nity Fo­cused Plat­form’

FICCI Business Digest - - Lead Story - Ola spokesper­son in a con­ver­sa­tion with Business Di­gest

We are very ex­cited about launch­ing Ola in Aus­tralia and see im­mense po­ten­tial for the ride-shar­ing ecosys­tem in a coun­try which em­braces new tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion. We have al­ways been a driver and com­mu­nity fo­cused plat­form which truly un­der­stands the far­reach­ing ben­e­fits to both the trans­porta­tion ecosys­tem and the econ­omy at large. We, at Ola, strongly be­lieve in col­lab­o­rat­ing with lo­cal stake­hold­ers to make it a win-win for ev­ery­one. As our plat­form ex­pands into mul­ti­ple Aus­tralian cities, we will con­tinue to build on these val­ues and phi­los­o­phy t o cre­ate a high-qual­ity and af­ford­able travel ex­pe­ri­ence for both driv­ers and rid­ers in Aus­tralia.

Ola the Pre­ferred Trans­port Plat­form in In­dia Ola has man­aged a big­ger mar­ket share in In­dia from the global gi­ant Uber. What was your suc­cess mantra and lessons learnt dur­ing the jour­ney?

At Ola, our mis­sion is to build mo­bil­ity for a bil­lion peo­ple and in pur­suit of the mis­sion, we have built a multi-modal trans­port ecosys­tem that is in­clu­sive in na­ture. Peo­ple have dif­fer­ent mo­bil­ity needs de­pend­ing on the use case, and Ola has man­aged to build a con­ve­nient, smart, safe and af­ford­able plat­form to ac­cess var­i­ous forms of trans­port to suit ev­ery mo­bil­ity need. Start­ing from bikes that pro­vide af­ford­able and quick last-mile con­nec­tiv­ity in smaller cities, to out­sta­tion and ren­tals that have stan­dard­ised a largely un­or­gan­ised sec­tor, to Ola Play – the world's first con­nected car plat­form for ride-shar­ing, Ola has led the way in the evo­lu­tion of In­dia's mo­bil­ity sec­tor. Ola has al­ways taken a lo­calised ap­proach to­wards build­ing mo­bil­ity so­lu­tions from ground-up, that has made life con­ve­nient for peo­ple. Over 125 mil­lion peo­ple across 110+ cities log on to the Ola plat­form in In­dia for their ev­ery­day mo­bil­ity needs, which stands tes­ta­ment to Ola's pop­u­lar­ity.

In Fe­bru­ary 2018, you ex­panded op­er­a­tions to Aus­tralia and New Zealand, both the mar­kets were dom­i­nated by Uber, what made you do that?

Our ob­jec­tive is to com­pre­hen­sively en­able on-de­mand trans­porta­tion as part of the shared econ­omy, and we are cur­rently one of the world's largest ride-shar­ing com­pa­nies. Over 1,000,000 driver-part­ners op­er­ate on the Ola plat­form. Since 2011, Ola has built a multi-modal trans­porta­tion plat­form in In­dia with op­tions such as cabs, auto-rick­shaws, elec­tric ve­hi­cles, and bikes. Ola has be­come the pre­ferred plat­form in In­dia due to our abil­ity to build tech-en­abled trans­port so­lu­tions ground-up. Un­like other forms of in­ter­net-driven com­merce, ride-shar­ing is real-time with a lot of tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges yet to solved. Hence, it made log­i­cal sense to ex­pand in­ter­na­tion­ally.

You share a com­mon in­vestor, SoftBank, with Uber. How is a clash of in­ter­est be­ing avoided?

Glob­ally, ride-shar­ing has be­come the new nor­mal for travel, fun­da­men­tally chang­ing how we com­mute ev­ery day. This change and growth is be­ing wit­nessed in dif­fer­ent parts of the world at the same time. Hence, it makes ab­so­lute sense for global in­vestors in­clud­ing SoftBank to bet on fast grow­ing global ride-shar­ing com­pa­nies like Ola and oth­ers.

What are some of the strate­gies you have co-opted to carve out your space in the mar­kets of Aus­tralia and New Zealand, which is dom­i­nated by Uber?

We in­vested a lot of time in un­der­stand­ing the cus­tomers in

Aus­tralia, UK and New Zealand, and de­vis­ing the right strat­egy to suit their re­spec­tive trans­porta­tion needs, as well as con­duct­ing a thor­ough study of the mar­kets be­fore launch­ing op­er­a­tions. We con­tin­u­ously en­gage our driver­part­ners through a va­ri­ety of chan­nels to lis­ten to their sug­ges­tions and feed­back and pro­vide as­sis­tance with unique ben­e­fits to im­prove con­ve­nience and earn­ing po­ten­tial. Ola is the first ride-shar­ing com­pany in Aus­tralia, UK and New Zealand to of­fer daily pay­ments to driver-part­ners. For cus­tomers, we have been pro­vid­ing af­ford­able fares and are wel­com­ing feed­back on ev­ery ride as we work to de­liver a safer and more af­ford­able travel ex­pe­ri­ence. We have a his­tory of launch­ing and de­liv­er­ing our solution in over 100 cities, of all sizes, and as a re­sult, the Ola plat­form has the ver­sa­til­ity to adapt to any en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

You also have plans to ex­pand to the UK by the end of the year. What would be your ap­proach to en­ter one of the most evolved trans­porta­tion mar­kets?

Ola is hugely ex­cited to re­veal its plans for the UK, one of the world's most so­phis­ti­cated trans­porta­tion mar­kets, with in­cred­i­bly tech-savvy pas­sen­gers and driv­ers cry­ing out for a re­spon­si­ble, new com­pet­i­tive player. We greatly ad­mire the UK as a fan­tas­tic coun­try to do business and we look for­ward to pro­vid­ing a great ser­vice that can help the UK meet its mo­bil­ity needs Ola is firmly es­tab­lished as one of the world's lead­ing ride-hail­ing com­pa­nies and our ex­ten­sive plans for the UK mark a nat­u­ral but sig­nif­i­cant next chap­ter in our global ex­pan­sion story. Ola started its first UK ser­vices across south Wales, in­clud­ing in Cardiff, New­port and Vale of Glam­or­gan in Au­gust 2018. Driv­ers on the ride­hail­ing spe­cial­ist's plat­form will reap the ben­e­fits of mar­ket-lead­ing in­tro­duc­tory com­mis­sion rates – as low as 10 per cent for Pri­vate Hire Ve­hi­cle driv­ers and 5 per cent for Black Cabs (taxis).

As the In­dian con­sumer base and the Western mar­ket is com­pletely dif­fer­ent, what are some of the in­no­va­tions that you have brought in?

In our mis­sion to build mo­bil­ity for a bil­lion peo­ple, Ola has al­ways built so­lu­tions from the ground up, to suit lo­calised trans­port needs. Ola brings a re­freshed ap­proach to ride-shar­ing in Aus­tralia, by be­ing driver­fo­cussed. Ola is the first ride-share plat­form in Aus­tralia to en­able daily pay­ments for driv­ers apart from of­fer­ing mar­ket-low com­mis­sion rates of 15 per cent, which trans­late to in­creased earn­ings for driver­part­ners and ac­cord­ingly, bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ences. Happy driv­ers mean happy cus­tomers. We con­tinue to work with var­i­ous com­mu­ni­ties and reg­u­la­tory bod­ies to build a longterm sus­tain­able trans­port solution in ev­ery mar­ket we op­er­ate.

Since 2011, it's been a short ride, do you think you have con­sol­i­dated enough to ex­pand?

In the seven years that Ola has been op­er­a­tional, we have evolved to be one of the world's largest rideshar­ing com­pa­nies. Ola in­tro­duced In­dia's first mo­bile app for per­sonal trans­porta­tion. Ola was the first trans­porta­tion plat­form to of­fer auto rick­shaws, kaali-peelis and taxis at gov­ern­ment reg­u­lated rates. Ola Play, is the world's first con­nected car plat­form for ride-shar­ing trans­form­ing com­mut­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and set­ting the tone for global in­no­va­tion in this space. Be­yond of­fer­ing a highly per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence for users dur­ing their rides, Ola Play also al­lows its part­ners like Mi­crosoft, Ap­ple Mu­sic, Sony Liv amongst oth­ers, to build a high-qual­ity in­ter­ac­tive and pro­duc­tive ex­pe­ri­ence for its users. In May 2017, Ola launched In­dia's first fully elec­tric fleet for ride-shar­ing and has com­mit­ted to bring­ing over a mil­lion elec­tric ve­hi­cles on In­dian roads by 2021. Over a mil­lion en­trepreneurs op­er­ate on the Ola plat­form as driver-part­ners and op­er­a­tors. In­no­va­tion is Ola's DNA and we have al­ways en­deav­oured to build smarter, more con­ve­nient and safer mo­bil­ity ecosys­tem that is driven by a hyperlocal ap­proach. Ola's in­ter­na­tional foray has been a log­i­cal evo­lu­tion for us to mean­ing­fully ex­pand the business. We con­tinue to look for fur­ther op­por­tu­ni­ties to build a world-class com­pany out of In­dia.

What marks the suc­cess of any new ven­ture?

Ola an­nounced its in­ter­na­tional ex­pan­sion in Jan­uary this year with Aus­tralia be­ing the first coun­try to launch. Since then, we have rapidly ex­panded across 7 ma­jor cities – Syd­ney, Mel­bourne, Perth, Bris­bane, Gold Coast, Canberra and Adelaide. We have re­ceived great re­sponse from both driver-part­ners and cus­tomers, and in many ways, it has ex­ceeded our ex­pec­ta­tions. Over 50,000 driver-part­ners op­er­ate on the Ola plat­form and we re­cently com­pleted the mile­stone of 2,000,000 rides. More and more driver-part­ners and cus­tomers con­tinue to choose Ola as their pre­ferred mode of trans­port in Aus­tralia, which re­in­forces our con­fi­dence in build­ing a suc­cess­ful business out of Aus­tralia that's lo­calised and solves mo­bil­ity needs for ev­ery Aus­tralian.

Bhav­ish Ag­gar­wal

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