Ola steps in to reclaim its reputation with promise of safety, credibility

The #MySafestRide campaign relies on user accounts and driver experiences to reassure riders of the safety protocols being adopted by the brand
In what would otherwise have been year of celebrations as the brand completes a decade on the road, Ola is busy fighting fires on multiple fronts. Its business model under threat and the shared economy in doldrums, the home-grown ride-hailing brand is looking to turn riders’ attention away from the problems at hand and assuage their fears with a fresh promise of safety and credibility.

Ola has long been seen as a home-grown success story with its founders being hailed for having matched the ingenuity of an Uber with a local touch. Its heft and muscle drew global investors and helped the brand travel abroad. However with the pandemic keeping most people home, Ola and also its rival Uber have struggled to keep the wheels turning. And as they have cut jobs and shuttered offices, their reputations have taken a hard knock.

With its new campaign, Ola is looking to get the trust back and also reiterate its commitment to the safety diktat of the day. The campaign uses its driver-partners and riders to vouch for the brand, thus using a familiar route to reputational integrity that both Ola and Uber have turned to quite often in the past few years. 

“With this campaign, we are further reinforcing consumer and driver-partner trust in the brand by sharing our employees’ experiences while highlighting the on-ground implementation of safety initiatives,” a spokesperson for the company said.

It is important to do that since several surveys have indicated that people are wary of travelling by anything but private vehicles. In a survey conducted in April-May, Deloitte reported that in India, 73 per cent of the respondents were planning to limit the use of ride-hailing cabs over the next three months (State of the Consumer Tracker, covered 13 countries with 1,000 individual responses per country/wave). In a report released in April, market research agency Kantar found that 35 per cent said that they would stop using ride-hailing transport completely while 41 per cent said they would cut its use. The Kantar survey was conducted with a sample of 1000+ covering 19 cities and 15 states across India.

 

Brand experts point out the pandemic is devastating but it is also an opportunity to build the brand up from ground zero. And for both Ola and Uber, hygiene as a safety factor and a brand value had fallen through the cracks in the past few years. The brands were focused on assuring customers about their drivers, their commitment to transparency and also their prowess with food delivery. Now is the time to renew the promise of cleanliness, experts say. 

Rohit Kumar, vice president at Hansa Research Group said, “The testimonial route shows there is more to the ride than just the transaction between you and the driver.” Ola’s latest campaign is an extension of the RideSafeIndia campaign, launched last month which highlighted a five-layer safety protocol that the company had established for its rides. 

 
According to Ola, the campaign is being seen as an opportunity to educate both drivers and passengers about the new normal. “We are facing an unprecedented crisis and we feel that we have to collectively take responsibility for the situation to be able to successfully combat this,” the spokesperson said. 

The crisis has been particularly difficult as it is manifest in an invisible and undefined health scare. People are not rational in their choices and behaving in a state of panic and anxiety as several consumer reports have indicated. Also brands and policy makers are juggling with multiple uncertainties at the same time. 

For both Ola and Uber, the worry is that the pandemic could change travel behaviour in perpetuity. A recent study by McKinsey on the global state of the business (How consumers’ behaviour in car buying and mobility is changing amid Covid-19) said, “It remains unclear whether car buying and mobility usage behaviours will return to a pre-crisis pattern, or whether some of their behavioural changes during the crisis will stick even after the pandemic subsides. As a result, all players in the mobility space need to closely monitor their particular local situation and adapt their go-to-market approach, sales, and overall strategy to those specific conditions.” The campaigns are a way of preparing the consumer for the future and assuring them of the brand’s presence as they transition into it. 


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