Hola Ola!


I have had the Ola App installed since a pretty long time. On the contrary, I am a frequent Uber user since the past couple of months. I have tried Ola thrice (5 months ago, 4 weeks ago, and last night). But I am yet to carry out a successful trip with them.

Three Strikes and You are Out – Bill Clinton

5 months ago

Time – 11 PM.

Start – One of the city’s main IT SEZ areas, Hyderabad

Destination – My House in a busy area, Hyd

KM – 9

Details – Tried booking a cab from the app but it regularly failed with different errors. Took to booking on phone. But no cabs were available. Which was annoying since –

  1. My route involved one of the city’s main IT SEZ areas.
  2. The distance to be covered was only 9 KM.

4 weeks ago. (Where this case study started!)

Time – 4 AM.

Start – Charminar, Hyderabad

Destination – My House in a busy area, Hyd

KM – 15

Details – My friend tried Uber but there were no cabs available. I thus decided to try out their competitor one more time.

Last Night

Time – 7.30 PM.

Start – Madhapur, Hyderabad

Destination – Banjara Hills, Hyd

KM – 10

Details – Uber was available as usual. But my friend wanted Ola owing to the cheaper rates. But there were no cabs available.

Turns out there is a reason Ola finds it difficult to counteract Uber when it comes to service.

The User Story of the Second Incident

I was willing to sit out the 20 mins wait for the cab. Post booking, I received an automatic generated call. My mind ventured a thought about it being a promotional call. I was unsure as to why the hell would they disturb me with such marketing, especially since I am already a customer now. None the less, I went ahead and received it. But, it got dropped due to some network issue in the area.

A few seconds later, I received a message that the call was regarding a confirmation and that the cab had been cancelled by me! I was pretty surprised and began wondering about the need to go with such a process for confirmations. This was pretty irritating.

I checked out Uber again, only to notice that there were no cabs yet. After a few minutes of deliberation, I decided to try one last time on Ola. A mini was nearby with a wait time of 18 minutes. I gingerly went ahead with the booking. After a couple of minutes, I received a cancellation message. This time it was because the cab driver had cancelled it.

The User Impression

While my friend went ahead to bargain with nearby autos, the following points swirled around in my head –

  1. Why are drivers allowed to cancel bookings? If they are, it should be subject to certain restrictions.
  2. What is the need of a calling process for confirmation? And if there is, why did I not receive a call, post the second booking?
  3.  As can be seen from the screenshot, there are 6 different options like Mini, Sedan, etc. Why in the whole wide world are there so many options? Or should I say, by including such numbers of options, what is the necessity to turn the app UI so complex?
  4. Why would I order food and other such stuff from you? Ola’s core mission is to satisfy logistics issues. Not the hunger pangs of customers!
  5. Why are technical terms involved in the app?
Ola Q1
Ola Q1
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What I would Do as a Product Manager?

The Data Story

As a product manager, the end user’s satisfaction is my mission. I contemplated on finding out if my opinion was in sync with other users’. I also took under my umbrella, their arch rival, Uber.

Let’s begin with a basic Twitter Analysis.

Influence –

Ola Influence
Ola Influence
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Analysis – Ola is influential in foodies and entrepreneurs. The foodie part is a good stat for the ancillary revenue. Also, Indian entrepreneurs do have an emotional string attached since it’s an Indian start up. Hence, the greater influence!

Summary  – On the flip side to Ola, I tend to think, that the communities that Uber influences seem to be more in alignment with their core goal.

Product Changes – Deliver push notifications with offers to other communities like Marketing, Music, etc.


Responsiveness –

BFF- Conversed with 1367 people
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 Analysis – One really cannot compare the responsiveness since Uber’s worldwide presence will highly skew the ratio against Ola.

Summary – I cooked up another solution for this –


Demographics –

Uber Demographics
Uber Demographics
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Analysis –  I hammered out demographic clues from 3 hashtags – @Olacabs, @Uber, and @Uber_india.

Eye opening facts –

  • Uber openly announces India as their second most important market, yet they don’t have any Indian city in their top rankings to boast off.
  • On comparing the 2 general hashtags, both are neck to neck when it comes to top tier Indian cities.
  • An upcoming IT hub like Hyderabad is nowhere to be seen on Ola’s list.


Ola can play catch up with Uber!

Product Changes – This statistic leave open many doors to capture customers. I have suggested changes in “The Answers” section below.


Hash Cloud –

Ola Hash Cloud
Ola Hash Cloud
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Top five hashtags:

Uber: #uberlove, #ubericecream, #uberon, #ubereverywhere, #uberdata.

Ola: #olamatchday, #chaloniklo, #nowinten, #olaluxury, #accesstorussell.


Ola has a lot many contests embroiled into the entire hastag cloud. Which in turn are tied to multiple twitter handles.

Contests are definitely a great way to woo customers. But, Ola has bombarded with one too many! The point is contentious but a slightly better balance between constant hammering and occasional contests can be maintained.

Uber too has many hashtags in its scope. They do not have any hashtag contests running for the Indian subcontinent.

But they have been able to capture customers on the basis of free rides and best in class service.

Product Changes – This statistic pinpoints to improvements on the existing app, namely 3 features that I recall –

  • Error ratio of call drops
  • Cab servicing time
  • Cancellation facilities

Tweet Cloud –

Ola Tweet Cloud
Ola Tweet Cloud
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Top five words:

Uber: sorry, hear, send, happy, note.

Ola: rt, ola, crn, app, share.

On going through the mined tweets, one clearly notices the frequency of occurrence of the words – “CRN + Share + Plz” together. This pinpoints to multiple Ola requests failing and Ola having to respond to them.

In comparison, Uber has “sorry + hear + note” together. Again, the replies are mostly on the complaints received.


Here’s the catch –

The words “hear + note” have been mentioned in an equal number of positive tweets!

The Answers

So let’s get to the questions raised by me –

1 – Why are drivers allowed to cancel bookings? If they are, it should be subject to certain restrictions.

Being Positive and Practical

A driver may or may not be able to take up the booking due to unforeseen circumstances like the following –

  • Sudden health issue
  • Overwhelmed by a sudden bout of sleep
  • Unpredictable breakdown of the vehicle

A provision for cancellation of rides should definitely be there. The conditions could be as follows –

  1. A maximum of 3 times of cancellation per month without any questions asked. After 2 months of it as a regular feature, it could be brought down to 1 or 2 times.
  2. Along with the above, the Cancel Button could redirect to a list of options like –
    1. Issue with Rider
    2. Technical Issue
    3. Others (with a Feedback box that accepts inputted text in different languages, and converts it to English while submission).

The app is the face of Ola Cabs to the world. It is a key brand ambassadors of the company. If people are satisfied with the object that they are interfacing with, this in turn will lead to incremental end consumer satisfaction.

2 – What is the need of a calling process for confirmation? And if there is, why did I not receive a call, post the second booking?

Making tough calls with minimal information

I remember experiencing this feature in a radio cab service. And I believe it is irrelevant. The confirmation call is a good to have feature, but can be done without.

There is a scenario where it could be utilized –

It should be generated after 5 minutes of placing the order. This would give both the driver and the consumer sufficient time to dwell on their booking and cancel if the need arises.

Also, if it is going to be a definitive feature, the regularity and punctuality of the call should be ensured. Ola as a company cannot afford to loose customers on simple features like technical issues with calls.

3 – As can be seen from the screenshot, there are 6 different options like Mini, Sedan, etc. Why in the whole wide world are there so many options? Or should I say, by including such numbers of options, what is the necessity to turn the app UI so complex?

Making Product Trade offs

I think the competition has fared far better when it comes to this portion of the app. They have reduced the options to a maximum of 3. And the options are pretty easy to select from.

I believe that as an end consumer, the greater issue that I had was that so many options proved futile to me. In any case, I had to end up bargaining my way with an auto rickshaw.

So, I would have brought down the options to Mini, Sedan, Prime, Auto.

Sedan or Prime can be integrated into TFS instead of being the owner of a separate real estate on the screen. This would retain TFS’s brand name and still enable the provision of higher quality services.

4 – Why would I order menu and other such stuff from you? Ola’s core mission is to satisfy logistics issues. Not the hunger pangs of customers!

Being a tech start up in an ever competitive environment, I can understand the need to quickly diversify into different verticals. And this diversification is basically following in Uber’s footsteps. But in parallel, it is equally if not more, important to take care of sticking to the core offering of the product.

My primary need of a taxi, for which Ola has positioned itself in the market, was not satisfied. Being an end consumer, I have many other apps for food ordering. And for now, I would stick with them.

As a Product guy, I would hold on to the generation of ancillary revenues for a little while more. And focus my resources (time, money and people) in strengthening the core offering. That would be a three fold approach –

  1. Facilitate cross functional teamwork  – Sit with the development team in testing the core technical issues.
  2. Push for more traction of users on the app
  3. Talk to users and make a note of their satisfaction levels.
  4. Keep a track of their satisfaction levels, through analytics.
  5. Take up the mystery shopping approach in order to understand the true conversion of the defined user stories in the real world.

5- Why are technical terms used in the app?

With prior experience in Digital Marketing and Pre Sales for completely non tech users, I honed my skills in explaining tech stuff in a boiled down manner to such end users.

For the non tech users, it is difficult to understand even simple terms like “servers”. Instead of the message mentioned, simpler messages can be utilized like –

“Oops, Something went Wrong…Please try again” or “Please recheck your network connection”.

In the back end, specific error messages in parallel with such front end messages can be built into the code which would get submitted into a separate error log. This would enable developers to debug the issue easily.


Uber wins hands down in the sentiment analysis.

Considering the Demographic analysis, Ola has a definite chance to play catch up and beat Uber at its own game!


Why I am eligible to work at Startups / Product Based Environments?

    • Have always dreamed about growing along with the company I work for.
    • Have the ability to spot opportunities, build respective strategies and execute plans in different scenarios.
    • In the 10 months of my start up journey, I performed the following roles –
        1. Developer
        2. Business Development
        3. Product Guy
        4. Pre-Sales
        5. Digital Marketer
        6. Recruiter
        7. Branding
        8. Content Writer / Blogger
        9. Recruiter
        10. Tech Analyst

Why I belong to such Environments?

Engineer making an airplane…Boring!

Engineer making a mobile…Boring!

MBA winning an investment case competition Twice…Boring!

But an MCA who has done all of the above…

I am sure you wanna hear more…

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I strongly believe that there is always scope for people like me who have –

    1. Been on the ground.
    2. Love working for the growth of the organization along with their own.
    3. Invest time even after the sale has been done in giving their utmost to the client.
    4. Focused on the greater vision in mind.
    5. Look for opportunities in all scenarios, and build strategies to capitalize on them.

Where would I fit in?

I would be an asset to the following roles –

    • Product Management
    • Digital Marketing
    • Analytics
    • Business Development


I also realize that there are many talented people willing to try it out at such companies.

But, I believe I can give them an equal, if not greater, competition.

And if still nothing works out, I am a big fan of chai (tea) and nimbu paani (lemon water).

I would not mind refreshing everybody around me with such beverages. 🙂 😀

* I can be reached at hello@nitishgulati.com

Note about data declaration

All Images and Data has been sourced from klear.com and simplymeasured.com