Ola reaches out to the last-mile urban commuter with e-rickshaws

Homegrown urban transport aggregator Ola has added electric rickshaws, or e-rickshaws, on its mobile app, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking the first ride in Noida, bordering Delhi.

Ola's newest offering – which was introduced at a 'Stand Up India' event in Noida by the Prime Minister – has been launched in partnership with Lucknow based microfinance lending firm Bhartiya Micro Credit (BMC), which helps in the financing and procurement of the e-rickshaws. The promoters and investors in BMC include Vijay Pandey, Wheel Enterprises and Greenwood Advisory Services LLP.

The Prime Minister also launched the 'Stand Up India' initiative to promote entrepreneurship among women, scheduled caste and scheduled tribe communities at the event.

The new Ola service, which has been launched with a fleet of 5,100 e-rickshaws, will be deployed across Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida, Faridabad and Ghaziabad.

The launch of this service comes at a time when Ola is battling competition from US-based Uber Technologies to capture a dominant market share in the fast-growing urban transport space as commuters increasingly look for more affordable options for their daily commute. With this service, Ola has forayed into the ultra affordable transport space, which can provide commuting options to a broad swathe of the population that still cannot afford to hail cabs.

A spokesperson for Ola said that while the new feature has been updated on the app for users in these cities, the actual availability of the service will take a week. The tariff structure has been fixed at Rs 25 for the first two kilometres and Rs 8 for every additional kilometre.

"The transportation needs of users in smaller towns and sustainable alternatives for cycle rickshaw pedallers will be solved with the introduction of e-rickshaws, which are affordable, environment friendly and convenient to hail," Pranay Jivrajka, chief operating offficer, Ola, said in a statement.

The e-rickshaw service will be later rolled out in more small towns and tier 3 cities across the country. However, Ola did not divulge further details as to its next port of calls. According to the company, over 60 per cent of the India's population resides in small towns and its e-rickshaw services is expected to help solve woes of daily commuters.

Ola, operated by Mumbai based ANI Technologies, has indeed been expanding its scope of services and offerings when it comes to addressing urban transportation problems. Ola recently shut down its other expanded services that include hyperlocal delivery app Ola Store and the mobile-only food ordering service Ola Café to enhance its focus on its core business. It recently acquired Chennai-based Qarth Technologies Pvt Ltd, a mobile payments startup.

Ola's newest offering comes less than two months after it introduced Ola Micro, a pocket friendly taxi service introduced in a phased manner across seven cities since February. The segment's base fare is in the range of Rs 35-45 and Rs 6-7 per km after the minimum distance, based on the city of operation.

Ola's other services in the cab hailing space includes the Ola Share (ride sharing), Ola Mini (small cars) and Ola Prime (wi-fi enabled sedans). To lure more customers, Ola has recently announced its 'auto connect wi-fi' feature, an open access wi-fi service which is expected to be rolled across all its segments.

Ola's other offerings include shuttle bus service with fixed fares and designated routes, which are currently available in Bangalore and Gurgaon, starting at a base fare of Rs 15. Shuttl and ZipGo are its competitors in the bus aggregation space.

Ola also offers auto rickshaws across 12 cities that include Delhi, Bangalore, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chennai and Hyderabad with a base fare that ranges between Rs18 and Rs25 for the first 1.5-2 km, depending on the city.

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