In what could be called its return to the web, homegrown cab aggregator Ola has launched a lightweight mobile website that works on slow internet speeds, requiring only a fraction of the data used by native apps. Referred to as a progressive web app (PWA), this website gives users an app-like experience on smartphones.
This website was launched at the Google I/O developer conference in San Francisco on Thursday. The idea is to enable the use of its platform across cities in India, addressing smaller towns that lack a speedy internet connection.
Speaking to The News Minute, Ankit Bhati, Co-Founder and CTO of Ola says there is a significant user base, especially in these cities which use low-end smartphones with poor network and/or have low storage space in their phones. â€śPWA is helping us penetrate these markets and reach new users. The websiteâ€™s app-like immersive experience and lightweight nature is also playing an important role in presenting itself as a great re-engagement tool,â€ť he added.
As per a statement released by the company, Olaâ€™s PWA consumes only 50 KB data on first load and 10 KB on subsequent loads.
Ola claims to be the first ride hailing app in the Asia Pacific region to use PWA technology. â€śAs the first ride-hailing app in the APAC region that is using PWA technology, this represents an important development that will enable us to reach an even greater number of customers and driver partners in rural India. We have always said that addressing market needs is a key priority and this launch takes us one step further in our commitment to providing mobility for a billion Indians,â€ť said Ankit Bhati.
Ola, which used to let users book rides from its website as well, discontinued it and went app-only in 2015.
The PWA was first launched two months ago, but was only available for employees before it went live for the general public on Thursday. Ankit says that the response to the PWA has been phenomenal. â€śOlaâ€™s PWA (total app size is 500 KB) which consumes only 50 KB data on first load and 10 KB on subsequent loads, has almost the same conversion rate as our native app, and even higher in several Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Weâ€™re also seeing a lot of repeat behaviour, and users in Outstation and Rental are doing exceptionally well,â€ť he added.
The Ola PWA works on 2G speeds and also supports offline booking. According to Ola, its initial load time on 2G speed is as low as 3.4 seconds. This makes it easy for bookings in smaller towns and for those who own low-end smartphones.
Bookings can be made across all categories through the PWA and it also lets riders pay though Ola money. Other options such as OTP verification for rides, use of maps for pickup and drop location, ride later options and the use of Share Pass will also be available on Olaâ€™s mobile web browser.