From time to time, taxi-hailing service Ola has been known to introduce new features to cater to different customer segments. Even as the company is fighting regulations and strikes, it is trying to surge past the competition by betting big on tech.
Two areas where the company is putting the foot on the pedal are mapping and in-car experience. Ola already has features such as 'hotspot' which encourages customers to go to the nearest pickup point. It also encourages drivers to know these spots with the aid of maps.
The company is also working on a feature that would suggest to customers to walk a few hundred metres to catch their cab and save time, people familiar with the matter told HuffPost India.
And, in case of poor Internet connectivity, Ola offers offline booking through SMS. This doesn't however eliminate the need for a smartphone though, as the booking requires GPS connectivity.
Last November, Ola launched Ola Play, which is aimed at in-car entertainment. Riders can enjoy music or videos on the Android tab installed in the car's back seat. Ola has partnered with Apple Music and Sony Liv for music and video content.
There are a few catches though. Riders can't connect their phones to Apple Music to play their own music, and they can only choose from pre-loaded playlists and can't see the song list. The video library is diverse but limited, though Ola says that the content portfolio is refreshed every few days.
The company has also partnered with the Mahindra group to have all cars in the Prime category equipped with Ola Play, which includes four-way high-quality speakers, and Android tablets for the rider at the back and the driver in the front. After working with Mahindra, the company is installing systems in other Prime cars as well.
For the driver system, Ola has worked with Qualcomm to make a console on the front and remove the need for driver's smartphone. The company has worked on auto-connect WiFi, which connects the rider's phone to the network as soon as they step into the car.
"We want the customer to have a holistically connected car experience," Ankit Jain, Senior Director & Head, Ola Play, told HuffPost India. "For that, we are going beyond entertainment which is present at the moment. Soon, we would introduce shopping suggestions. Additionally, we are measuring how the driver is performing in certain situations as well to make the drive smoother."
"You won't notice any lags even if the audio and video are playing through different channels," Jain added. "We also want to give car control in limited means to the rider, such as AC temperature control."
Ola already has a sizable number of corporate tie-ups and is also exploring the possibility of integrating apps for emails and web conferencing into Ola Play.
To make driver-rider communication easier, Ola is experimenting with voice commands and multi-lingual screens on the front and back of the car. The company says that all its cars are equipped with WiFi services for riders.
Ola also announced the extension of Ola Play to Ola Rentals and is looking to offer it in longer distance Ola Intercity as well. For the latter, it will need to refine its content library from small video clips to longer forms of entertainment.
The company is trying to lure more customers with the Ola Select program, which offers members benefits such as free WiFi, lowered rates, and no surge prices for a monthly fee.
Ola's big bet is on cashing in on the connected experience and offering different schemes to customers. However, Ola Play's reach is limited at the moment and it will take a considerable amount of time before every Ola rider gets to use this feature.