Previewing Ola Luxury Mumbai

Like I wrote a few days back, Ola Cabs recently started to offer a Limo service in Mumbai, giving themselves a headstart over Uber which will be launching in Mumbai soon as well.

I wanted to try out the services, however, had a tough time getting my hands on one of their few cars which are on the road right now. Reason, I figured was most of these cars are positioned in suburban Mumbai, and I live in South Mumbai. So, my first experience with them only happened past Saturday, when I could finally snap one of their cars which might have made a ride into South Mumbai.

You can only book via the app which is available for iPhones or Android phones, and ‘Ride now’ means riding between 30-45 minutes later. Part of it is the fault of Mumbai’s ever growing traffic, part of it is the fact that most of these cars are positioned far away from my home. I’ve heard from Ola that once they’d be adding more cars and then it becomes a shorter timeframe.

The first ride was actually not what I thought it would be, i.e., a luxury German sedan coming to pick me up. It was more Japanese, i.e., a Honda CRV which turned up. The car was clean, the driver was punctual and made it in the committed time. The driver called me before he started, and informed me of the timeframe, and took down the landmark to my home as well. Good show, I was impressed.

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Drivers open the doors for you. Once inside, I noted the driver was wearing the uniform provided by Ola. He asked me for a destination, and pressed the Start Ride button on his phone/GPS terminal so that OlaCabs could start billing me. There was a bottle of water placed inside as well.

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We rode about 16 kilometers, which took us an hour, and for a total price of Rs. 644, which is 3x the cost of the local flag down cabs, and about 2x of Ola’s own Economy Sedan Taxi.

We tried to book up a cab for our ride back home, but since there were no cabs in South Mumbai at that time, and they won’t accept a booking 1 hour out, the following pop-up came on the phone.

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I just flagged down a regular cab and proceeded to get dinner with friends, which was a long affair. At the end, I thought of Ola Luxury again to get back home, and there was a Mercedes E-class positioned 1 KM away from me. At that hour of the night, it should have taken him 2 minutes to come to my position. However, I waited 5 minutes and saw nothing moved, so I tried calling the driver. His phone went perpetually busy, so I cancelled the ride, took a regular cab and went home. Next day, I was told, the driver’s GPS terminal was frozen, and he was taking directions from dispatch. However, when I met the same driver two days later on my ride yesterday, he told me he had shut shop at midnight so he was obviously not in the know of a drop at 1 AM.

Over the days, I’d look them up everyday to see if I could take a ride back home, however, only once did I come close, when they had a Honda Accord in the vicinity. With a last minute meeting, I could not take it for a spin.

Yesterday, then, was my second experience with Ola’s Luxury product. I wanted to take a drive into the suburbs, and somehow, we were able to book a cab that showed as 1 hour away from us. This was going to be a Mercedes E-Class, the same one that we were not able to take on Saturday night.

The driver approached us, and managed to make it in 40 minutes close to my home. We stepped out of our apartment, and waited for him to turn up, but he did go round and round in circles, in front of us, but did not call us to ask for the exact destination. When I later asked him why, he responded to tell me that he had another 20 minutes on hand, so he thought it was fine to try and find my place on his own.

The car itself was a Black Mercedes E-class with a leather trim, and as is the usual, we were asked for a destination. We started riding and had a clear road all along.

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Except, towards the end, we got stuck in a gridlock. And we waited 77 minutes to clear that. That meant we had to cut short the little bit of shopping we intended to do and go straight away to the restaurant we were booked for dinner. However,  we rode for a distance of about 20 kilometers, and were one the road for 2 hours, and the invoice ready Rs. 828. You better not get stuck in traffic with one of these for too long!

On the way back, again, there were no Ola Luxury vehicles in the neighbourhood, so I went with a regular cab and got home.

In summary, I hope Ola can add more of these cabs soon, and make them available round the clock. As a frequent visitor to the airport, I would hope that they’d have a 4 am cab available that I can ride to the airport as well. And yes, drivers still need more training to be attentive to clients, because it is not just about riding in an expensive car.

(In the interest of full disclosure, Olacabs has provided me with a complimentary Olacabs preview account, which allows me to get rides on Ola Luxury without payment for a few days)

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