ola india entertainment console vehicle

India’s Ola has introduced an in-car entertainment system. Pic: Ola

Ola, Uber’s main Indian rival, adds entertainment system to appeal to passengers

OLA, India’s leading ride-sharing app, has launched a passenger-controlled entertainment system as it tries to lure users away from rival Uber.

A touchscreen console will allow passengers to access music, watch TV shows, browse the internet and even control car settings like air conditioning. The system will sync with their phone allowing them to stream services like Apple Music and fashion app Fynd or control the console from their own device.

The system will be rolled out to more than 50,000 cars in Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi by March next year, Ola said in a statement. Ola claims it is “the world’s first connected car platform for ride-sharing”.

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“I believe this will completely transform the consumer’s ride experience, giving the user the power to control the interactions within the car, and usher in a new era in the ride-sharing industry,” Ola CEO and co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal said at the launch.

“Ola Play is a world first, built in India by an Indian team, which showcases that we can do better than the best in the world, and be global leaders in technology and innovation.”

The move is probably not the technical breakthrough being claimed. In the U.S. Uber already has a similar system, minus the console, and allows passengers to play Spotify and Pandora playlists en route.

Both companies are trying to entice customers by making the ridesharing experience more pleasant.

Last year both services added free on-ride Internet access and Ola created an Ola Select benefits program for regular customers.

But writing in Forbes Suparna Goswami says this may not do much for the company’s bottom line. “Experts tracking the cab aggregator sector in India feel the industry has a pyramid structure wherein the largest user base are the ones opting for basic services,” she writes.

Social media users also have their doubts, with many saying improving its hygiene standards in drivers’ cars would do more to impress Ola riders than a snazzy entertainment system.