Ola launches self-drive rental service in India

Ola plans to launch 20,000 self-drive rental cars by 2020.

After six months of internal preparation and soft launch in Bengaluru, SoftBank-backed India’s biggest cab-hailing company Ola announced Thursday the launch of ‘Ola Drive’–a self-drive car-sharing service–which will give stiff competition to Zoomcar, the existing leader in the self-drive space.

To begin with, the Bengaluru-based company will open the service for commuters in its hometown and will slowly roll down the operations in Hyderabad, Mumbai, and New Delhi.

The company said it will host a fleet of 20,000 cars by 2020, 50% more than the fleet size of the entire industry put together. It claimed Ola Drive already has 200 million subscribers–the largest user base for a car-sharing service in the country. In comparison, Zoomcar claims to operate a fleet of 7,000 vehicles with two million customers across 45 cities. KrASIA couldn’t independently verify these numbers.

Ola will introduce the service to users in Bengaluru through pick-up stations located across different residential and commercial hubs from where users can choose to book a car of their choice for a minimum of two hours by paying a security deposit starting at Rs 2,000 (USD 28).

“India’s car-sharing market has immense potential and opportunity, which is yet to see a large scale investment in technology and operations to make the model viable. In the first phase of its roll-out, Ola Drive will be offered as a short-term self-drive car-sharing service as we look to introduce long-term subscription, corporate leasing, and more options in the times to come,” Arun Srinivas, chief sales and marketing officer at Ola, said in a statement.

The company will offer its customers the option of customize their own package with full control over the number of kilometers and hours they want to rent the vehicle for, including the option of whether fuel will be included  in the package or not. Ola claimed the freedom of choice allows users to save up to 30% over other service providers.

Other players in the self-drive car rental space include Zoomcar, Y-Combinator-backed Drivezy, Carzonrent, and Myles. Zoomcar recently raised USD 1.98 million from its US-based parent company.

In an earlier interaction with KrASIA, Drivezy co-founder Ashwarya Singh had said for two-three years Ola will spend money and time on sourcing quality vehicles and marketing, which should be good enough time for Drivezy to aggressively capture more users.

“If we don’t scale up and match to the potential of Ola in the next two to three years, it would be bad news for us,” Singh added. Drivezy said it operates 4,000 vehicles in 11 cities.