What Happened to the Algorithms?

What Happened to the Algorithms?

This is from an intro to a report on Ola, a ride-hailing giant in India. This is the key line: “Ola Electric wants to put one million electric vehicles on the roads by 2021”. That is scary – if Uber matches it, you may end up having a dislocation in drivers-passengers ratio across cities.

Ola is today among a handful of India’s multi-billion dollar unicorns. And it’s worthy of your attention: The young company is locked in a cutthroat battle with US ride-hailing giant Uber, and recently Ola has taken the war abroad to Australia, New Zealand, and the UK as well.

  • India’s ride-hailing market is worth over $10 billion. Ola and Uber are neck-and-neck when it comes to saturating cities with cabs, but it’s still anyone’s game. Are they India’s only two options?

  • Ola Electric wants to put one million electric vehicles on the roads by 2021.

  • Driving is the sixth-most common job in India.

  • The average order value on Ola’s food-delivery service, Foodpanda, fell from over Rs300 ($4.22) to under Rs120 ($1.69) during 2018, and market share and reach plummeted, too. Ola is revamping the business.

  • Like Uber and other American unicorns, Ola has been posting massive losses for years now. (Source: Quartz)

I am beginning to think that ride-hailing may not be helping cities in reducing the number of cars on the road! Yes. the redundancy rates of these empty cars which are always on the move looking for passengers need to be examined. I have no empirical data to support my perspectives but like what Toyota wants to do with Didi in China, these ride hailing platforms could be dumping grounds for car companies looking to hit earnings projections.

We were promised that algorithms will make available cars to work optimally for all. Now, platforms are ordering millions of cars! Does it mean that the algorithms have failed or that platforms have stimulated new demand, necessitating the need of new cars?

In Nigeria, especially Lagos, we do not have a car issue [platforms are not buying cars]. Rather, we have a motorbike concern [platforms buy motorbikes]. Lagos state government must ensure there is optimality. Ideally, a fairytale world where Gokada, ORide and Max use one app, reducing inefficiencies on assets would have been amazing. Of course, business does not work that way! Yet, more motorbikes should not be the core gameplan in these entities – they need to come together for a better framework where assets can be shared in some ways.


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2 thoughts on “What Happened to the Algorithms?

  1. For me, the biggest innovation to come out Uber is efficient utilisation of assets, where your car can be serving you and others, rather than being idle for long period.

    By the time we start seeing too many vehicles and bikes on the roads, I will conclude that the mission has failed!

    None of these entities are likely to be profitable until they go into bankruptcy, they were all built to only burn cash.


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