Ola is trying to get ahead of Uber on every count possible, and to make this happen, they recently launched a new privileges program called Ola Select. I got an invitation to try the program a few days ago, and I signed up for the first month free of cost. Here are the benefits Ola promises.
Now, this is not a free membership on an invite-only basis, but an attempt to monetize premium passengers. The feature is sold as a subscription over a 1-3 month period at a time.
Is it worth it?
I am usually an Uber regular, but I know both Uber and Ola are trying to outwit each other all the time. Uber has the Uber VIP program, which should be coming to India at some point of time, where they offer frequent riders the benefit of connecting them only to highly-rated drivers (hence less mishaps with service) and other stuff. The only reason Uber gives it to you is frequency. Here, Ola is outright selling this option to you, so the need to go behind the back and see what is on offer:
- No Peak Pricing: Ola is monetising us in a different way for at least INR 500 a month, so this is a small way to get that money back. However, peak pricing should be going away anyways in some markets, and in others, the new way of showing Peak pricing is to not show it, but just charge it. I don’t value it at much, against the price I will pay.
- Airport Lounge Access: Ola Select offers you airport lounge access as well, which, I would like to believe, for the customer set they are targeting should already be in their pocket via one of the many options listed on airportlounges.in, our microsite where we cover airport lounges. Having said that, their coverage is extensive. This is a good to have, but I don’t think I need it.
- Priority Customer Support: No go for me yet, I wrote to them a week ago and still to hear from them on it. Zilch value.
- In-cab wifi: Ola launched this as a part of their Ola Prime offering where you pay for a sedan, and get wifi on your car free of cost. Now, all sorts of Ola Cabs will have it for Ola Select members except for shared cars or shuttles. You can use a max of 300 MB data per ride.
- Ola Events: You get first in line for all their sponsorship dollars spent at various events. This is a good to have, but not a must have.
- Free Upgrades: This is just posturing. I frequently book an Ola Micro and get a message that I’ve been upgraded to an Ola Mini, but really, they are always the same cars, just like the same cars can operate in UberGo and UberX at the same time. And when you pay for a Mini, you are anyways paying the cost of a sedan ride for a hatchback on Ola, so if they upgrade you it is no big deal. So, they try and get more money out of you, but if it does not work, they’ll send you the same car for less.
- No Cancellation Charges: No, Ola anyways does not charge a cancellation charge at this moment.
- Top Drivers: The Ola rating system, we don’t know much about it. I am supposed to rate a driver, he is supposed to rate me, but nothing after that.
- Partner Offers: Again, a good to have but I won’t sign up for this.
Honestly, this is an Ola attempt to build a subscription service, but I’ve seen most Indian companies fail in this regard, because they want to take more than they want to give in these cases. Amazon has built a fantastic case for Amazon Prime, while Flipkart tried replicating with Flipkart First which did not offer the same caliber of benefits.
Ola thinks that when people pay for this benefit, they will come back for more rides on Ola over Uber or other options. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t.
What do you think? Would you sign up for an Ola Select membership?