Ola (ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd) has launched a lightweight mobile website, or a progressive web app (PWA), to help the ride-hailing service penetrate deeper into smaller towns and cities and target consumers with low-end smartphones, the company said on Thursday.

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Announced at the Google I/O developer conference, Ola is strategically leveraging cutting edge technology that has the reach of the web and offers a native-app-like immersive customer experience.

Ankit Bhati, Co-Founder and CTO of Ola, said, “The launch of PWA technology represents another milestone in Ola’s commitment to building innovative technology that is made for India. As the first ride-sharing app in the APAC region that is using PWA technology, this represents an important development that will enable us to reach an ever greater number of customers and driver partners in rural India. We have always said that addressing market needs is a key priority and this launch takes us one step further in our commitment to providing mobility for a billion Indians.”

PWA will operate in ways that address the local consumer needs and provide light and agile functionality, enabling Ola to magnify its reach to tier two, three, and four cities across India. Additionally, PWA presents itself as a convenient option for Outstation and Rental customers who can now access Ola through this light application on their mobile phones and desktops/laptops alike.

Key features of Ola’s PWA include:

  • Simple design, lightweight and fast usage in areas of low connectivity, consuming only 50KB on first download and 10KB on subsequent downloads
  • Operates at speed on 2G networks and also supports offline bookings; initial load time on 2G is 3.4 seconds and repeat load time is < 1 second
  • Behaves and looks like an app, providing the reach of the internet while offering an immersive customer experience similar to native apps
  • Ola is the first ride-sharing app in APAC to use PWA technology as well as the Polymer framework
  • Seamless integration of extended offerings, including Ola Money and Ola Care
  • Users can book an Ola cab through PWA across all categories and can also pay for their ride through Ola Money, making the mobility experience seamless and convenient. Other options such as OTP verification for rides, use of maps for pick-up and drop locations, ride later options and the use of Share Pass will also be available on Ola’s mobile web browser.

Ola Vs. Uber

The development comes at a time when Ola seems to be losing ground to Uber Technologies Inc, at least in the top seven cities.Uber inched ahead of Ola in March on the basis of app downloads in the seven biggest cities, according to a report by research firm KalaGatoPte Ltd. Uber accounted for 47.3% of all cab- hailing apps installed, higher than the 43.7% for Ola, at the end of March, according to data from KalaGato.

To be sure, Ola operates in 110 Indian cities as against Uber’s 29. Both companies generate more than 80% of their business from the top 10 cities.

More on PWAs

PWAs offer consumers an experience similar to native apps, but consume a fraction of the data used by native apps. It overcomestechnological barriers to entry in key markets where there is limited connectivity and a prevailing use of low-end smartphones.

Flipkart Ltd and MakeMyTrip are among the few other homegrown consumer Internet start-ups to have launched similar web apps.

Although smartphone usage in India has increased in the last couple of years, it still lags behind most other emerging economies. With the majority of the Indian population using low-end smartphones, PWA will act as an enabler of business for many online startups.