Beyond Apps: How Ola, Uber And Other Cab Hailers Are Trying To Bypass The Internet

In low connectivity zones, old-school SMS comes to the rescue.

12/10/2016 6:31 PM IST | Updated 13/10/2016 9:05 AM IST
Hindustan Times via Getty Images

There was a time last year when India's e-commerce giant Flipkart wanted to switch to an app only business model. However, faced with consumer backlash, the company dropped the plan. While apps are central to the smartphone world, it can be good idea to have alternatives to them. And, India's on-demand cab providers are taking that route by providing users with ways besides apps to book a cab.

The most recent announcement came from OLA Cabs, when the company rolled out a feature where a passenger can book a cab even without an Internet connection. The users still has to use the app to determine her or his location through GPS. Then an interaction over SMS takes place and one can book a cab after selecting an option.


Uber, on the other hand, lets you book a cab through a browser. It doesn't yet have a dedicated offline system, though. The user has to log in to and request a ride from the website. After the ride, rider can pay through cash.

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In countries such as the US, Uber also has bots tied up with different applications such as Facebook Messenger, Slack, and the newly launched Google Assistant. Although, these features are not live at the moment in India, there is certainly a possibility of that happening in the future.

Smaller cab companies are also looking at newer ways to lure customers. Jugnoo, the auto- rickshaw booking platform also rolled out a web booking feature through its website, called The company has also filed a patent for allowing bookings through SMS without an Internet connection.

Other aggregators such as Meru and TABcab have multiple ways of providing service to the customer. These operators rely more on calls and website bookings.

While Internet connectivity in India is steadily improving, there are still many areas with poor connectivity. Often, low connectivity can be a problem in urban areas too. In such situations, alternative means to book a cab can come handy.

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