After being disruptive in the taxi aggregation business, Ola is now piloting its on-demand auto rickshaw service in Bangalore, in a bid to tap into the unorganised three wheeler market.
Ola confirmed the pilot but declined to give further details. An auto driver that ET spoke to said the company has given them a Huawei handset for booking and tracking and opened a bank account for the drivers as well. Ola charges a convenience fee of Rs 10 and the auto driver promises to go by meter.
“We were also given a quick training on etiquettes by the company,” a Bangalore-based auto driver told ET. Ola has about 300 autos in Bangalore for this experiment. However unlike Ola’s taxi model, the customer will need to first enter drop off location before an auto driver accepts the ride.
“Auto drivers realise that there is an immense opportunity looking at how it has played out for taxis,” said Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, partner at Unitus Seed Fund. “The auto drivers understand the value in the deal.” Unitus has invested in m.gaadi, a Bangalore-based auto aggregator.
Last month, Ola raised $210 million from Japan’s SoftBank Corp and existing investors at a valuation of nearly $650 million.
The Bangalore-based startup has been very aggressive with its expansion plans over the last couple of quarters. Last month, it launched its in-app wallet, which allows commuters to top up their Ola Money accounts using net banking, credit or debit cards. The company also slashed its prices for its lower-end car business—Ola mini—to Rs 10 /km in Delhi and Bangalore, making it the lowest cost taxi aggregator in the country.
M Gaadi, which launched in Bangalore a year back, has about 10,000 auto drivers on its fleet. The company too charges a convenience fee of Rs10. “We are focussing on building the network and growing, profitability and margins will come later,” said Soloman Prakash, cofounder at m gaadi.