On the lines of online taxi hailing service Uber, which never advertises itself on its vehicles, many of the drivers of its competitor Ola are now removing the Ola brand stickers on their vehicles. This move could help Ola cab drivers to tag their vehicles with multiple taxi aggregators, operating at their convenience.
The company, which has about 2.5 lakh vehicles on its platform, since its inception in 2011, put Ola stickers on the cabs and saw it as a major advertising push to boost its brand visibility.
According to the Karnataka Motor Vehicles Rules 1989, no advertisement is permitted on any part of the vehicle either inside or outside or on any glass thereof, and that they need a permission from the region transport authority if they insist on advertising their brand. Similar provisions exist in other states too.
When asked, joint commissioner for transport (Bangalore) Narendra Holkar said as per rules advertising is not permitted on cabs, unless special permissions are obtained. Ola drivers FE spoke to, had multiple reasons for doing so. Some said there were instructions from the company to do so, while a few said, it was to stop getting caught by the police and RTO officials for various violations by the company. A few others said it was done so that they can attach their vehicle with multiple operators.
Ola declined to comment officially on the reason for this initiative and its alternative branding strategies. The branding on the cabs allowed customers to easily identify the car and then match the plate number while boarding an Ola cab.
Shivananjaiah C, an Ola driver said, “At Ola we have the liberty to login and logout at our convenience. And now, If we don’t put stickers, we can attach our vehicle to Ola, Uber or any other player at our own terms.”
Another driver who did not wish to be quoted said, “I was with Uber until five month ago and when I got a call from Ola, I declined to join for the only reason that they insist on putting Ola stickers. After a few days, I had an interaction with their manager and they agreed for me to operate without Ola stickers.” The driver has attached his vehicle with another tour operator.
When asked for the strategy behind Uber not branding on the vehicles attached to it, the company spokesperson said, “The cars are not owned by us, they are the driver partner’s car. The drivers are free to choose whether or not they want to put any stickers. It’s simple if I owned a car, I wouldn’t want to put stickers on it and in any way cause damage to it.”