Ola plans to acquire Ridlr to boost real-time tracking technology

Ride-hailing company Ola is looking to acquire Mumbai-based transportation app Ridlr to boost its navigation technology and open the door for integrating public transport such as buses, local trains, and metro services.

Ridlr offers services such as bus and train route finder, online ticket booking, and real-time traffic updates. While the company’s services are available in around 20 cities, it has mostly been successful in Mumbai with its integration with BEST (Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport Undertaking).

Sources confirmed that the company was in talks to buy Ridlr. However, a spokesperson from Ola declined to comment. 

Ride-hailing is increasingly looking at ways to get integrated with a city's public transportation systems. Players across the world are eyeing at ways to get customers to use a mix of transport methods including cabs, trains, buses, and cycling to get from point A to point B.

For Ola, a service like Ridlr could be crucial as they have found workarounds to the lack of real time data for transportation systems available in India. If the company is looking to provide a seamless service to its customers, it will require the capability to track buses and trains as accurately as the cabs on its platform.

While Ridlr claims it has patented algorithm to capture live traffic movements with installed GPS probes and has been able to work with BEST to enable live scheduling of buses, investors are seen to have lost confidence after the of Google in the space.

Google already lists schedules and routes of public transport in a number of Indian cities and last year even began offering live-tracking of buses starting in Kolkata. The push for Ola to acquire Ridlr also comes from the fact that the two companies share Matrix Partners as a common investor.

Ridlr had raised $6 million in funding in July 2016 from the likes of Times Internet, Matrix Partners and Qualcomm Ventures, but is said to be struggling to raise more funds going forward. While showing some success in Mumbai, it has failed to compete with services such as Google Maps at a larger level.

Ola's interest in the company comes soon after it acquired Foodpanda's India operations from Delivery Hero, giving it an entry into the online food-ordering and delivery space. The company has also expanded overseas with an entry into Australia earlier this year and is eyeing more markets where its rival Uber has a stronghold.

Ola's bold moves come at a time when Softbank is seen as exerting pressure on Uber to fold its businesses in Asia. The Japanese group is largely seen behind the merger of Uber's Southeast Asia unit and Grab, and there are certain views that similar outcome may happen in India where Softbank favours Ola over Uber as well.

However, insiders say the situation in India is more complicated, with Uber controlling almost as much of the market as Ola. Further, relations between the promoters of Ola and Softbank is said to be strained, and the Japanese firm's attempts to acquire more stake and control in Ola have been blocked.