Many people wouldn’t remember that Ola – the ride hailing App which revolutionised public transport in India, already had an Ola Store in 2016. The company, which has explored various consumer businesses also experimented this model. Back then, the company operated dark stores at Bangalore and NCR to deliver household items & groceries to customers using Ola Cab drivers. Many people questioned the logic and the viability of the model. The company’s idea was to use the idle time of the driver so he / she could earn a bit extra. The project was shelved in less than 9 months.
Back in 2021, Bhavish Agarwal, Founder & CEO of Ola announced that the Ola Store will be back soon. And rightly so. In today’s times where Zepto has created a new benchmark with 10-min delivery, Grofers renaming them as “Blinkit”, Dunzo delivering faster than before and Swiggy setting up “Instamart” like the US’s Instacart, “delivering fast” is the new normal. Whether consumers want it so fast or not is another question altogether. And if they’d pay in future for a faster delivery- well, till will tell. The brand new Ola Store has been expanding it’s presence and geographies rapidly at the back of it’s huge cash reserves.
The company launched its services in Chennai recently and has taken the market by storm. Ola is offering ₹100 off on a first transaction value of ₹300. After all, this is the company that set new standards for cab hailing with it’s referral codes, non-peak time travel discounts and so on. They termed these discounts as “cost of customer acquisition” which Meru Cabs or Easycabs (a decade back) didn’t do. Ola gave and continues to give a tough fight to it’s American counterpart Über in India till date in the cab hailing business.
One can use Ola Credit facility to keep buying groceries and items listed on the App and pay later. So, this is a huge credit facility for millions of Indians who do not have a credit card given that many Indians still use micro credit offered by the neighbourhood Kirana shopkeeper. The assortment of products is very basic and to the point – mostly branded items which are popular. Perhaps the top 250+ well known and fast moving branded goods. The App interface is somewhat similar to Zepto though. The biggest claim of the newest model is to deliver goods and happiness in the shortest instant.
After getting acquired by the Tatas in 2021, Big Basket – the market leader hasn’t been in the news, especially lacking it’s earlier “on the face” advertisements on newspapers and Tv. Instead, the company has been quietly integrating & strengthening it’s backend with the eponymous Tata Star Bazaar to build a Super App. Jio Mart has been doing the same with it’s retail backend. Whereas Zepto, Swiggy and Ola would have to painstakingly build a product assortment spending (or investing in, as they’d like to call) millions of dollars in the backend, dark stores, people & logistics.
Customers don’t care though. They’re the smartest of all living beings. They would pick and use what’s trending & keep moving. The joke on social media meanwhile is when you order stuff from Ola Store, at least you’re sure enough not to be asked “a little extra” or duty denial by it’s infamous Cab drivers! How far would Ola take this “new drive” is anybody’s guess.