Ola is now offering 'super-sanitised' rides in the most confusing coronavirus feature yet

A first glimpse at Ola Pro in Australia (Supplied)
  • Ola has launched a new offering called Ola Pro, promising a “super sanitised” version of its rideshare service.
  • Users will be separated with a platic “hygiene screen” from their drivers, who in turn will be supplied with a kit containing hand sanitiser, gloves, antibacterial wipes and face masks.
  • For users who “need or prefer” the extra measures during the COVID-19 outbreak, Ola hopes it will find a market as the rideshare and taxi industries are hit by governemnt shutdowns.
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As COVID-19 keeps Australians indoors, rideshare companies are getting creative with how they can win back customers.

The desperation appears to be sending the minds of their marketing departments to some odd places, with Ola on Wednesday launching ‘Ola Pro’, an extra hygienic version of its standard offering.

“Ola Pro is a super sanitised version of our existing services, for people who have the need for or prefer a super sanitised car,” Ola Australia managing director Simon Smith told Business Insider Australia.

While emphasising any Ola ride “remains extremely safe”, according to Smith, Ola Pro purports to be extremely, extremely safe. That means you’ll be separated from your driver by a makeshift plastic barrier, with drivers instructed to clean surfaces before and after every single ride.

For an extra $4.50 a pop, the Pro service appears to have a pretty specific demographic in mind, with the company suggesting those working with at-risk community members might be keen. While there very well may be a market for it, assumedly many of these potential customers have long sought out alternative arrangements since lockdown measures were implemented in March.

Nor is it an empty field. Competitor DiDi curiously unveiled a similar initiative – minus the plastic screen – last week targeted at frontline health workers with the somewhat grandiose moniker DiDi Hero.

Nonetheless, Ola drivers will now have the opportunity to opt-in to offering the service. If they choose to do so, they’ll be required to be temperature tested weekly and have their car professionally cleaned once a week. They’ll also be obliged to maintain the utmost hygiene standards, and will be given hand sanitizer, gloves, face masks and antibacterial wipes to do so. Interestingly, the agreement with Ola Pro drivers suggests the last crucial item is subject to availability, although Smith assures Business Insider Australia adequate stock has now been secured.

Rolled out exclusively in central Sydney on Thursday, Ola says it will review its success before it decides whether or not to expand the program. With Smith saying the company was now “working hard to install hygiene screens as fast as we can”, drivers will be required to drive a bare minimum of 50 hours per week to ensure supply.

While punishing hours won’t be foreign territory to gig workers, it’s certainly well above an average week for full-time workers fortunate enough to hold employee status. Certainly, fatigue ranks as one of the top three contributors to road accidents.

Nonetheless, Smith maintains Ola Pro doesn’t pose a heightened risk to drivers or to riders.

“We want to ensure that those we have installed can be used by as many customers as possible, hence we require drivers to commit to a certain number of hours,” Smith said. “These hours are well below the maximum allowed to manage fatigue and drivers have responded enthusiastically.”

At any rate, Ola hopes the service will be a hit, no doubt a little worried by the enormous challenge it and all rideshare and taxi companies now face, and what is likely a significant drop in business. For reference, 13cabs this week revealed business had dropped by a staggering 80% during the COVID-19 pandemic, with similar falls assumedly affecting its rideshare adversaries.

Ola, Uber and 13cabs have all been united at least in their quest for diversification, with all three moving into delivery services as well.

Strange bedfellows, indeed.

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