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Olacabs launches mobile app for Android platform; iOS, BlackBerry apps to follow

Mumbai-based startup ANI Technologies Pvt Ltd, which runs an online marketplace for cabs and car rental services under the brand Olacabs, has launched a mobile application (by the same name) for the android platform to book and monitor cabs. The company already has a Web app for the same. Olacabs claims that the newly launched android app is the first of its kind in India and its iOS version will be launched next week, followed by the BlackBerry app in July.

The new app can be downloaded from the Google Play app store for free. With the help of this app, one can book the nearest Olacab and can also track its movement while it is on its way to pick you up. Once a booking is confirmed, all necessary information such as the cabbie's name and contact details, vehicle number, distance from the user's location and the estimated time of arrival (ETA) will be provided. The app also maps the cab's movement in real time, from its original location to the pick-up location.

Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder and CEO of Olacabs, said, "The app provides customers with a clear and transparent view of the service they have availed through real-time information sharing."

All Olacabs come pre-installed with Android phones that manage the operations and act as an in-car navigation device and fare meter. The app comes with a built-in GPS system and location sharing facility, so that customers don't have to provide directions any more. Instead, your cabbie can reach the pick-up point on his own (at least that is what the company claims). Registered users also have the option of maintaining a credit balance with Olacabs and can use the service through the app, without having to pay for the trip.

Founded by IIT Mumbai alumni Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati in January 2011, Olacabs ensure cab booking, be it point-to-point services within a city, hour-based rental services or outstation travel. The startup currently operates in Mumbai and will be launching its services in Delhi and Bangalore this month, with a target of expanding into 10 cities by the end of 2012. Last year, the company raised its first round of funding from Anupam Mittal and angel investor Rehan Yar Khan, as well as from other smaller investors. This was followed by a series A round from PE firm Tiger Global in April 2012.

When we tried the app, we had to log in first (or create a new account if you are a first-time user). After that, we were able to book a cab without much fuss and the interface was quite convenient. We were also provided with the contact details of our Olacab (as promised by the company) and the ETA. However, the cab took a little longer to arrive (guess that's why they call it 'estimated' time of arrival) and unlike what the company claims, the driver did call us for directions. At the end of the journey, the Android phone/fare meter showed us the amount we had to pay.

Note that the company charges a minimum of Rs 100 for a booking, a cab charges Rs 18 per km and the waiting charge is Rs 1 per minute.

If you want to know more about the Olacabs experience, watch this video.

Competition abounds

The online car rental space has been hotting up with several startups entering the segment with funding from both angel investors and VCs. In 2012, there have been five deals (including Olacabs) in this sector. Late last month, Taxiforsure.com had raised an undisclosed amount in VC funding from Accel Partners, Helion Venture Partners and Blume Ventures. Prior to that, Savaari Car Rentals Pvt Ltd raised $1 million in a Series A funding from Inventus Capital Partners; YourCabs.com raised angel funding from Sprism Investment Pvt Ltd and other investors, and Taxiguide raised Rs 25 lakh in angel funding from Anand RP, the investment director at Squadron Capital who invested in his personal capacity (the company is also looking to raise $2 million in a Series A round). Although none of these companies have a proper mobile app as of now (some of them do have Web apps), we think it is only a matter of time before they launch those and competition is bound to hot up then.

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