Uber and its Indian rival Ola are racing against each other in better serving Indian customers on slower networks.
Not long ago, Uber rolled out a feature in India that lets people book a cab without downloading the app . Today, India’s largest cab-hailing service Ola announced that users on its platform can now book a cab even when there is no internet connectivity.
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Dubbed 'Ola Offline', the feature comes into play when a customer doesn’t have good (or any) data connectivity. When that happens, Ola app offers users with two options: the usual, Retry; and a new 'Book via SMS'. Tapping the latter takes them to the messaging app, where they see a pre-entered text message requesting Ola to book a cab.
From there, users are able to interact with Ola through text messages. Ola sends them details of cabs available at nearby places, and users can select the driver and book a cab using SMSs. Ola says it informs the driver about the contact details with the GPS triangulated location of the user.
Ola Offline is available across all cab categories in four metro cities starting today. Other regions will get Ola Offline over the coming weeks. "We understand that while an Ola might be available around you, a working Internet connection might not always be. Ola Offline will now plug this gap," Ankit Bhati, CTO and co-founder of Ola said in a statement.
Ola Offline further underscores how serious Ola is about expanding its service to the untapped Indian market. The company also offers features like Ola WiFi, 2G optimization, and regional language support.
In August, Uber rolled out two similar features to encourage more people to use its service. The company offered users the ability to book a cab by visiting the mobile website, and also allowed them to book a cab for their friends. Additionally, Uber announced last month that it will let people in select part of India schedule a ride.
Internet penetration continues to be a big problem in India, but companies are increasingly finding ways to serve Indians. Earlier this month, Google announced a fleet of new features for Indian on slow networks, including a new YouTube app calledYouTube Go.