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Ola starts ‘net-independent’ services! Now book your cab with an SMS

The cab services which were initiated as a startup in our country have made it big! The cab services such as Ola and Uber have come up as a miracle as in India travelling is its own kind of adventure. Ola and Uber are comfy and easy to ride. The only condition is, you have internet and their app. Absence of internet already makes us feel handicapped and booking a cab without internet is unimaginable. But, Ola has now smashed this barrier!

Booking a cab via an app has become the norm for most of us, but what do you do if there’s no data connectivity where you’re waiting? Ola has an answer to that question, and on Monday sent out an email to its users to introduce Offline Booking. As per Ola’s emailed statement, if the app detects that you are offline it will prompt you to send your location via SMS to Ola, which will then send you driver details over SMS – you can then contact the driver via a phone call, just as you normally would.

In August, global rival Uber had launched a feature called Dial an Uber, which allowed you to book a cab without having to download the Uber app, but that still did not work offline – merely asked you to visit a website and enter your details. In other words, it was a good fit for the problem of low-end phones without storage to spare, but not really useful if there was no connectivity.

In contrast, Ola’s feature works fully offline – we tested the app with data switched off and the process worked very smoothly. You’ll have to send a couple of SMSes to carry this out, which you will be charged for, but if you’re stuck somewhere with poor connectivity, that won’t really be a deterrent for most people.

This works based on your registered mobile number, so it uses that information for your billing. There are no other additional charges, and you can pay by cash if you prefer, though if you have Ola Money, that will be deducted. Once you get back to a network, the app resumes normal operation.
On the other hand, Ola’s Offline Booking is not trying to tap new users – instead, it’s aimed at improving the experience for its existing customers. Irregular network coverage remains a big issue throughout even the major cities of India – it’s not uncommon to go from 4G to 2G to no-G in just a few minutes. There are situations where the connection is there, but the speed is so low that you can’t book a cab anyway. Now, you could just turn off mobile data and still be able to book a taxi when you need it.

Both companies’ features are useful, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they ‘inspire’ the other to develop a similar feature

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