App-based cab aggregator major Ola in Bengaluru has been granted a licence to launch self-drive cars in addition to its existing businesses.
Termed ‘Ola Drive’, the company has started testing the pilot in Bengaluru presently for a select number of its users before extending the service to the rest of the country.
Ola in a statement said, “Ola’s deep knowledge of the Indian customer has allowed us to build tailor-made mobility offerings across 12+ categories including cabs, three-wheelers and two-wheelers. Launching a self-drive service is a natural extension for Ola and we are excited to build innovative offerings for both individuals and corporate customers."
Industry sources told TNM that Ola will be infusing a capital of USD 500 million in India in the next couple of years on this self-driving service alone.
The self-drive offering will be launched with a fleet of 10,000 cars across the country with the option of drop and pick up facilities in designated hubs across cities.
The company is reportedly in touch with luxury car makers like BMW, Audi to introduce premium cars for the self-drive option to its users. Initially, the company will rent out hatchbacks and SUVs.
Other than short-term leasing to individual patrons, the company is looking to expand its offering for long-term rental programs for corporates as well.
Industry insiders and independent analysts told TNM that the foray into these non-core services is an effort by established cab aggregators to seek profit, with their primary businesses bleeding due to multiple factors.
Ola and its rival Uber currently enjoy an unofficial duopoly in Bengaluru without the existence of traditional yellow cabs or a significant third player.
However, in this self-drive segment, Ola will compete with existing brands like Zoomcar, Myles, Drivezy among others, which offer both intracity and intercity pick and drop facilities.
Presently, Zoomcar is touted to be the dominant player in the self-drive car rental market with a 70% market share across the country.
Ola’s distant rival Meru has an existing corporate cab service, which industry insiders say is a much more sustainable and scalable business model compared to Ola and Uber’s app-based cab services.