Ola launches Ola Play to give riders control of air-conditioning, entertainment in cabs

S Prabhakaran November 22, 2016 2 min

Story Highlights

  • Ola Play is an in-car system for users to take control of car features.
  • Partners with Apple Music and Sony Pictures India for digital entertainment.

Ride hailing company Ola has launched Ola Play, an in-car system that lets users take control of features inside the car, like entertainment and air conditioning.

The company has stitched together partnerships with Apple Music and Sony Pictures India to provide digital entertainment on the system.

“We want to bring together the power of the internet and a cab ride into one place… No one has done it before, our team has worked on it for a year,” Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder of Ola said on Tuesday.

Ola cabs will come equipped with the system, much like an in-flight entertainment system, which can be controlled by passengers. Users can also take control of the car’s air conditioning and other features through the Ola app when they get into a cab. The system will also keep a tab of history of users such as frequently visited locations.

Ola Play was put together by a team of engineers based in Bengaluru over the last 12 months, Aggarwal said. The devices runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip.

Ola cabs will come equipped with the system, much like an in-flight entertainment system. Users can take control of the air conditioning and other features in a cab through the app  

Aggarwal said that the company will also work with third-party developers to create an app ecosystem. The service will be launched for Ola Select customers in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi starting this week. It will be extended to around 50,000 Ola Prime vehicles by March 2017.

The launch of the in-car entertainment system and the various strategic initiatives Ola has been working on shows a marked shift in its strategy: the company wants to move away from competing on prices and discounting rides with rival Uber, which is better capitalised.

Ola is also reportedly in talks to raise fresh funding from investors, as it battles rival Uber, to keep its lead in the Indian ride hailing market.

Various publications including The Times of India had reported earlier that Ola was in talks with SoftBank Group and existing investors to raise $600 million in funding.

The company has raised $500 million last year at a valuation of $5 billion from Singapore’s GIC, Didi Chuxing and Baillie Gifford, a Scottish investment fund.

It has raised a total of $1.2 billion now and has over 5.5 lakh drivers plying cabs and auto rickshaws for passengers in over 100 cities.

India’s cab hailing market, though fraught with regulatory challenges, is estimated to be $7 billion in size by 2020, according to an estimate by SoftBank, which shovelled $210 million into the company in October 2014.