Nikhil Bora, Principal Engineer of Ola, has played a pivotal role in enabling high-end solutions on a wide range of projects, including building ‘Ola Shuttle’, developing loyalty-based subscription programmes like Ola Select, and Ola Pass (including Share Pass). Over the years, he has also worked on various services like user personalisation, user store, referral store, live active booking store and add-on services for things like insurance and flood relief funds. In a freewheeling interaction with Nisha Ramchandani, he speaks about the future of mobility and customer experience.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

What does the Future of Work for mobility look like?

The mobility landscape is continuously evolving to meet the needs of a world that is grappling with challenges across sustainability, fossil fuel consumption, and increasingly diverse needs. Considering the dynamic nature of the space, the workforce that delivers on addressing the future needs of mobility requires a bent of mind that is inclined towards seeing the larger picture, where they understand that their work not only impacts the here and now, but the future as well.

Mobility as an industry is poised to become one of the largest propellers of the economy and companies working in the space will work towards solving a problem that either enables or improves its offerings through technological interventions. As someone who has witnessed the evolution of this industry closely, I think the next set of challenges for this industry will be to make mobility cheaper, more efficient and cleaner.

Can you share some details about your role and the products you have built for Ola?

I have worked with Ola for five years, and during this time, I have had the opportunity to work on several projects that have focused on building scalable and efficient solutions to enhance customer experience. Fortunately from the start of my journey with Ola, they have given opportunities to lead projects, take risks and learn along the way. I have worked across various businesses ranging from mobility to financial services, food to fleet management with cross functional teams to build products from just ideas.

Some of my most memorable projects include developing loyalty-based subscription programs like Ola Select and Ola Pass (including Share Pass) and working on the newly launched Ola Drive category. I have also worked on various services like user personalisation, user store, referral store, live active booking store and add-on services for projects like insurance and flood relief funds.

You were talking about the amalgamation of consumer insights and technology to create business products -- can you elaborate with examples?

In a dynamic industry like mobility - we need to ensure that we are effectively using technology to develop solutions that are responsive to our customers' needs. Customers have high expectations for their mobility and ancillary service requirements, and are highly adaptive as well. Hence, it becomes essential for us to use insights to identify opportunities and respond quickly. The team at Ola

The evolution of Ola Micro - India's first budget ridesharing category, is an example of us identifying an opportunity and quickly addressing it. For this, we deep-dived into the mindset of customers in a price-sensitive market through multiple surveys and focus group discussions to identify the need and then address it. Today Ola Micro is one of the most cost-effective AC cab options available on Indian roads today and has played a significant role in making ride-hailing accessible to a significantly large customer base.

Similarly we also developed Ola Pass and Share pass for consumers using Ola on a daily basis. These offerings ensure fixed pricing on a category of rides up to a certain number.

So, what kind of consumer insights have you gathered around mobility - can you share with a demographic breakup?

Considering India’s population and its diversity, providing safe, cheap and customised modes of transportation has always been the need of the hour.

More than half of India's population is under 25 years old and this young population has also defined the nature of mobility in recent years. While there is debate on whether millennials prefer ridesharing over buying their own vehicles, it is easy to see that the digitally savvy youth leverage the power of technology to choose mobility options that best suit their budgets, time-sensitivity and preferences.

In our quest to provide all our customers a safe commute, we have undertaken several focused efforts. We do an extensive background verification of our drivers, and have a 24/7 support centre available, we also have enabled app-level interventions such as Guardian which tracks all rides between 10:00 pm.-5:00 am and automatically triggers real-time alerts in case of any anomalies.

Another insight is centered around micro-mobility or more specifically two-wheelers as a ride option. In small towns and cities with a significant student population, bike taxis pose as an affordable and more agile alternative to cabs. This has helped us make concerted efforts towards enabling access to bikes in these towns, and this category has been progressively working well.


What are some of the global mobility trends you see shaping up in India? How are we a different market?

Ride sharing is constantly evolving with app-based cab hailing is becoming the norm across the world. At the same time, solutions like self-drive car-rentals, bike taxis and electric vehicles are becoming some of the biggest mobility trends across the world, and India is not far behind in seeing these trends become mainstream.

In the Indian market, ride sharing comes to the fore as it can play a significant role in transforming the mobility landscape. Considering the increasing demand and environmental impact, ride sharing has the potential to positively impact the ecosystem and the nature of mobility with fewer cars fulfilling the same amount of demand.

In addition, electric vehicles have the promise to be a sustainable, cost-effective and viable means of transport in India, and can improve outcomes for all stakeholders while reducing pollution across towns and cities.

Nisha Ramchandani is the principal author of 'The Future of Work' series. 

Published Date: Oct 18, 2019 03:10 PM | Updated Date: Oct 18, 2019 03:10 PM IST

Tags : #future of work #Ola #on-demand ride-sharing

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