OLA, Uber and Others – What is your take?

OLA, Uber and Others. Yes today when it comes to Taxi aggregators, there are only 3 in major cities in India Uber, OLA and Others.  You may be surprised but that is the fact. Everyone else falls into “others” and Uber / OLA control the market, building their business on “Network Effect”.

With Uber,  few weeks ago…

I was trying to arrange a cab with OLA for a drop at Railway station for my parents. I was not able to do it in advance as the app always gave me the same message that “Drivers not available, try instant booking”. It took some time for me to understand that OLA is already going high on “Network Effect” in Bangalore, moved away from planned bookings and now only encourage instant booking in almost all major cities in India.

As no taxis are available in next 10 minutes with OLA for an Instant booking, I decided to choose Uber. To my disappointment, the taxi driver accepted the pick-up but was moving away from my place in the map than moving closer. I was tensed and called him on the status. He replied saying he is going somewhere and he can’t take the pick-up. This was a serious disappointment and I do not understand why he did accept the booking first. May be training issue? ….Finally I cancelled the booking, found an OLA which that reached after 30 minutes (promised 15 minutes) and managed to get my parents dropped in the station on-time.

To add to my Uber disappointment, I received a mail from Uber saying an amount of Rs 50 would be deducted for cancelling the taxi after 5 minutes of acceptance of the pick-up by the driver.  Sent a strong email note to Uber support with the reason for cancellation and it was followed by a prompt apology email for the confusion and they also clarified no such deduction would be made.

Now the recent experience …

Few days ago went to Chennai on a business trip. My first taxi journey in Chennai was from Central Station to a Hotel @ Nungampakkam through the Pre-Paid taxi booking counter at Chennai Railway Station. They charged Rs 250 bucks for the trip that should not cost more than 175 and in addition to it the person in the counter who issued the slip took Rs 10 as a service charge with no mention of it in the charge slip (In the slip, Service Charge was 0).

The taxi that picked me up was probably manufactured 30 years ago (A black ambassador with 2 fans fitted on either side for ventilation) and it could be the best roller-coaster ride that you can ever experience at a low speed of 30 KMPH.

For my next trip decided to take an auto. My map showed me that it was no more than 15 minutes walk but the auto guy demanded a fare of Rs 90. With time running out for the meeting, negotiated it for Rs 60 and took the auto half-heartedly. Needless to say I decided to walk back to the Hotel and had no interest to bargain again with another auto driver.  Did anyone say auto drivers use meter in Chennai now?

With a pathetic prepaid taxi and auto experience, decided to attempt OLA instant pickup (Will come back to Uber in a minute, OLA was the one that immediately captures every attention as they have spent significant amount in advertising) for my next meeting and to my pleasant surprise the Taxi was at my hotel in 10 minutes. That was a great ride in a neat car with A/C on. From then on it was OLA every-time for next 2 days…

Uber Journey @ Chennai begins now …

In one of the OLA trips in the evening they charged be 2.3 times the base fare citing peak time reasons (I thought it was fare to charge more but not convinced with the factor of 2.3) and on enquiry from the driver I understand a significant portion of it goes to OLA and rest to the taxi driver. This is the primary money earner for them now.

The next day again OLA app notified during the booking that they would charge 2.1 times the base fare this time so I decided to take a dip into Uber.

Uber I believe is silently getting promoted there in Chennai among drivers, they haven’t yet implemented the peak time tariff (looks like it is other way around in Bangalore) and from then on for next 2 days it was all Uber with no peak time charges with a similar prompt service like OLA

Now the interesting part …

What is the difference between OLA and Uber Experience for me as a customer?

I never faced any denials of service after acceptance of the trip in OLA but it happened to me once in Uber and that too in my very first attempt.  May be I am unlucky in that trip or I am not sure whether that is the trend / pattern in general. Readers can share their views …

Second, in OLA the booking is almost instantaneous. On talking with Taxi drivers, I understand, in OLA driver app, there is no option for you to “Accept or Reject” a trip assigned to you. If you have logged in the app, you have to take the trip, no excuses unless you have some serious issues with your car. On the contrary Uber provides the driver an option to Accept or Reject (it assigns to the one closest to the customer) and if he rejects it moves on to the next person. May be this hunting puts you on-hold for some time, till someone accepts your trip.

Though OLA is aggressively promoting OLA Money now, dominant payment method is cash and it doesn’t go well for someone like me as it comes with the issues of getting the right change back from the driver, having cash in hand etc. On the contrary Uber has multiple payment options including tie-up with paytm (a reasonably established payment aggregator) where I already had an account and it makes it hassle free.

The map app in Uber (For customers, drivers and to others if you decide to share it for your family members to track) is superior when compared to OLA. I never had any instance of an Uber driver asking for route to me or having multiple phone calls to me to spot where I am waiting. On the contrary it was not perfect in OLA. Most of the Uber drivers use the built-in navigation to reach your destination which makes you feel bit comfortable & safer as it is technology driven. I am not sure whether OLA driver app has this feature or they are not trained to use it.

Both of them do a fantastic job in sending out the invoice to your email address with all details on from, to, fare break-up etc that makes it easy for your expense filing


Finally one common challenge I see with both the operators are issues due to poor network. To cite an example, in one of my trips the OLA driver is not able to close the trip and generate invoice for more than 10 minutes as the application was not responding. Similarly in an another trip, though my Uber has arrived, for more than 10 minutes he is not able to start the trip as “network” is not available and he has to move around here and there to finally swipe me in.

Saying above you might be wondering what our good old fast-track, Chennai call taxis etc are doing…They are carving their niche for planned bookings, outside city travel, tour packages etc in today’s context. On my discussion with drivers, many don’t like them as they see the allocation of trips to drivers not that transparent like OLA and Uber and they believe there is favoritism in allocation pushing the drivers out of their fold.

The trend is clear…

It is Uber or OLA for instant booking and only time can answer on who would exploit who in the ecosystem of  operators, drivers and customers depending on how it evolves in coming months.

I hope the market will play a role to ensure no one is exploited  🙂


2 thoughts on “OLA, Uber and Others – What is your take?

  1. Interesting analysis of the unbundlers. So Ola is aggregating demand, Uber is aggregating supply, while others continue the aggregating of transport. For a taxi business the capacity is measured in terms of minutes, so the next innovation to expect in the market then is a platform/junction/station that combines these aggregators -one stop shop. Alphabet is building one platform via driverless cars, which of course is bound to take off in Indian cities only next century (hopefully). Google seems relevant to our contexts, while Apple car could disrupt Uber and Ola worldwide. Snapdeal should consider taking on Google India with a taxi product, I guess, given that in our cities there is never a shortage of either demand or supply; but as you said, if the call drop epidemic (endemic?) is anything to go by then the real unbundlers will be the telcos… customer will want a taxi, then review the road scene and decide to sit at home and use telco instead of taxi, lol.

  2. OLA has no grievence redressal. For every thing you get a standard reply “We are sorry. we are informing our concerened team.” And nothing comes out of it.

    I frequently use Ola and Uber for residence to office and back. Once ola charged exorbitantly high amount. I wrote to them that time taken for the trip is same, route is same, how can u charge so much more than my other trips. Reply was, “Sorry but it is not company policy to refund”. How can they make such a unilateral policy? They are one party, I am other. They are not Judges. But take it or leave it.

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