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23rd May, 2016  

Uber vs Ola: A small study

By Muthu Kumarandi


I have been using Ola and Uber from the day it was launched. I am a big fan of Ola as I had a similar idea way back in 2009 which I never consummated. I wanted to step back a bit and look at both the services as a customer, designer and as a business person.

I was always fascinated by the way Ola launched its product. It started with ‘Autos’ – the biggest pain point for a regular commuter. That gave Ola an instant rise to fame. Suddenly everyone started talking about Ola without any Print/TV/FM advertisements. Within a few months of its launch, everyone came to know about it through word of mouth (the best possible advertisement that anyone can get). It was a kind of a silent revolution. As for the strategy, with which they made it possible, is a case study on its own. I am planning to do a detailed paper on it later.

Uber launched itself as a elite service provider and so not many people were in for it. It must have been difficult for Uber in the beginning, especially in a place like India. It survived the initial slump with the huge cash sitting at their back. But soon they changed their strategy into providing cabs even for a common man, rather than just as an elite service provider. This changed the wind a bit. But their best bet was their drivers. They were well mannered, professional and decent when compared to any other service provider. So it naturally got a name for itself, but it still didn’t reach the commoner. It was their slash in prices that made that magic.

Mobile Application Design


Ola First page


Uber First Page.

This is what you see after you have seen the landing page. In Ola this page gives an option for the consumer to choose the various kinds of services provided by Ola like Auto, Share, Prime etc. The default selection is always the latest one that is launched by Ola. From a marketing point of view this is a good strategy, but not from a consumer perspective. If I am new customer then it does not curb my enthusiasm to explore all the available options. But if I am regular customer then I would prefer it to show me the regular type that I book based on my usage pattern plotted to time, if the algorithm is good.

In case of Uber it is plain and simple where the default is the cheapest type and the there is a linear progression of types of taxi from left to right in terms of cost. They could afford such simplicity because of the focus on the market they are catering to.

I always thought that Ola is very well designed and catered for the Indian mindset where I am always conscious about the value for money. So I always choose the one that I can afford. Everything is point blank. If you want to share your cab ride then choose it now or never. The secondary information to reinforce the first call to action is visually clear. It also gives a detailed info about the category on tapping the selection category.

In Ola the first call to action is to choose the type of ride that you want to take.

Uber on the other hand presented itself with the minimum option to choose but point blank showed me an available cab within a certain time frame with a loud and bold button to book the cab. No other diversion. Simple and plain. The secondary information to book a cab like the waiting time is clearly shown. No fuzz about what the different categories are. It gives me more info about the category like minimum fare etc on tapping the type button, similar to Ola.

In uber the first call to action is to book the cab.

Ola has a provision to save the current location as a favourite whereas this is missing in Uber. At the first look, it comes as a very good option but on second thought, it shows us how it digresses the process of booking a cab


Ola Second Screen


Uber Second Screen.

In Ola the second screen asks me fill the drop point from a list of favourite places or to search and find the place where I need to be dropped. In Uber after getting a confirmation from the cab, the app asks me to confirm the booking. Here I have all the necessary details to book the cab. It shows me the mode of payment (which is not so evident) and other things like fare estimate and offers. It progresses in the process of booking a cab with bare necessary functional details.

The difference in approach must have been a output of the business strategy that they adopted. Ola allows pre booking where as Uber doesn’t. Uber’s design represents the clear cut functional approach arrived out of clarity of mind where as Ola loses a certain amount of focus in order to satisfy everyone.

You’re never going to please everyone, and if you do, there’s something wrong. –Constance Wu

There is a provision in Uber to add the current location as favourite. But it still doesn’t digress.


Ola Third Screen


Uber Third Screen

In Ola the third screen confirms me, the drop location and it also have a provision to add it to favourites. The idea of adding favourites is a great idea unless the data collected is utilised properly. The data collected is properly used in Uber by auto-populating the drop off location based on my favourites and time of the day. This definitely needs a sophisticated mechanism to push such a data to my drop location. It makes a big difference as a user where the application helps me to finish my job with ease.

When we are in the midway of selecting the drop off location in Ola, Uber has already confirmed the booking and gives me all the necessary details of booking. Both the applications are trying to do the same thing but in a different way. Ola goes through a linear step by step process similar to a wizard whereas Uber takes a non-linear route.

A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end… but not necessarily in that order. — Jean-Luc Godard

Uber gives me the Driver and Cab details like photo, the model of car and the drivers name. The drivers name is unnecessary as far as booking is concerned. I would much appreciate if it allows me to contact the driver in this screen itself. But we can forgive Uber for this, since my booking is already done 🙂


Ola Fourth Screen


Uber Fourth Screen

In Ola after selecting the cab type and drop location, I am asked to confirm my booking only at this stage. Whereas in Uber I have already booked and the cab is on the way and now I can contact the driver if I want to or change the payment mode or split the fare or cancel the trip if I don’t want to . I can even share my status if I find the driver to be unsafe for travel.

In this screen, the from and to point is shown by green and red dots whereas in Uber its shown as a green dot for starting point and red dot outline for the ending/drop point. Such small attention to details where the destination is in the future where the task is yet to be attained represented by a red dot outline makes it such a delight to analyse. I am sure that such attention to details gets registered in our subconscious.

The strategies that these two companies adopt to keep the game going always inspires me a lot. It reinforced my idea that design can never be gauged by just its visual appeal but only based on the business intentions and it responsiveness to the various stakeholders involved in the business. It cannot be taken as a compromise but as a tool that leverages each other for the success of the idea. Design can never be standalone like art. It needs a larger understanding and lots of gives and takes without losing its soul. I am not interested in commenting here about the benefits/damage that it brings to humanity as a whole but the fun of playing such a game is really alluring.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
T.S. Eliot

To know more about the Uber story please read This Guardian Story

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