Ashee Sharma

Ola rides on InMobi

With the aim to reach out to a 100 million users, online cab hailing service Ola opened up its API to InMobi.

The online cab hailing service Ola has opened up its API (application programme interface) to the performance-based (it charges not for displaying the ads, but for conversion driven thereof) mobile ad network InMobi. With this integration, Ola will have access to a wide range of audience. The company aims to touch 100 million users.

Ola rides on InMobi
People have always attributed great importance and pride to one's location. There is a certain sense of accomplishment or even snobbery associated with where one lives. People want to buy homes close to parks, schools and hospitals. The same is true for businesses. If a café or a hotel is located near a subway station or the airport, it does brisk business.

Until recently, the only solution for advertisers wanting to target consumers on the basis of location was billboards. While outdoor advertising has tried to innovate, there still exist multiple challenges with billboard advertising. It is a broadcast medium which tries to appeal to all audiences without any fine targeting or feedback mechanism. The creatives and the messaging are largely static (unless digital) and lose their attractiveness after some time.

Then came the PC era when the mouse became a magical device. And today, the mobile phone, which is like a super computer in one's pocket, has become a powerful medium for location targeting.

It is to leverage this opportunity that Ola cabs, in association with InMobi, has set up this service.

How it works

InMobi claims to have a footprint across several news, gaming, entertainment and utility apps, coupled with investment in data sciences using location data points such as latitude/longitude, IP address, and device ids. At an aggregate level, these data points have personally identified information (PII) and can help target a location on two key parameters -- country/state/city/geo-fencing and points of interest targeting.

Using geo-fencing, an advertiser can narrow down to the latitude/longitude of a target location. Several on-demand services like cabs, grocery and food delivery target cities, and even pin codes, depending on their service areas. Alternatively, QSR (Quick Service Restaurants) chains and retail outlets use this technology to target consumers within a certain radius to drive them to their stores with various offers and coupons. Car manufacturers can show details of their dealer locations to consumers and point out the closest one from their current location.

Ola rides on InMobi
Ankit Rawal, general manager, India, InMobi, says, "Another interesting use case in India is to target Tier II and Tier III cities. As consumers in these cities have leapfrogged to the mobile internet, it becomes an effective and inexpensive medium to reach these audiences where Above the Line (ATL) media is difficult and costly.

Points of interest targeting involves targeting audiences around certain locations such as airports, railway stations, malls, universities and tech parks. An obvious use case will be a cab booking brand around airports and tech parks or a youth-focussed brand targeting users around universities and malls. Additionally, an advertiser can employ custom-based location targeting. For instance, it can show its ad to users who are near national museums and historical sites. Using beacons inside malls, brands can also identify their customers who are in-store and delight them with personalised messaging and offer to upsell or cross sell.

The Integration

Ola rides on InMobi
To meet its target of a 100 million users, Ola is using this integration to help users book a cab directly from the ad. This holds for small cities, as well. Wherever there is a high demand for transportation, InMobi's platform is used to place contextual location-based ads online. Once the ad is displayed, users can download the Ola app and use the service.

Commenting on the importance of location based/mobile advertising, Sudarshan Gangrade, vice-president, category, marketing, analytics, partnerships, at Ola, shares, "Currently, 100 per cent of our bookings come through the app. Ola's 'mobile first' focus, coupled with increasing mobile and smartphone penetration across the country, has made booking a cab through an app an intuitive exercise. Hence, all our digital spends are used for mobile."

The partners

InMobi platforms leverage advances in big data, user behaviour, and cloud-based architecture to simplify mobile advertising for its customers. Recognised by MIT Technology Review as one of the 50 Disruptive Companies of 2013, InMobi claims to be the world's largest independent mobile ad network, engaging 759 million consumers across 165 countries.

Founded in Jan 2011 by IIT Bombay alumni Bhavish Aggarwal and Ankit Bhati, Ola (formerly Olacabs), is a popular mobile app for personal transportation. Using the Ola mobile app, users across 100 plus cities can book from over 2,00,000 vehicles, including cabs, auto-rickshaws and Kaali-Peeli taxis in Mumbai. Ola recently acquired TaxiForSure, which continues to operate as an independent brand.