Ride-hailing giant Ola adds tipping option to its app

Manish Singh
In this photograph taken on September 12, 2019, an Ola cab driver talks on his mobile phone at a roadside in Amritsar. - When India's Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman September 10 claimed millennials' preference for ride-hailing apps was contributing to a painful slump in car sales, it sparked a online backlash from furious youngsters. While data shows ride-hailing firms such as Uber and Ola are popular with younger consumers more comfortable with shared mobility and digital trends, analysts say the auto industry's problems run deeper than that -- and it is facing more serious bumps in the road. (Photo by NARINDER NANU / AFP) / TO GO WITH 'INDIA-TRANSPORT-AUTOMOBILE-ECONOMY', FOCUS BYGLENDA KWEK WITH ARCHANA THIYAGARAJAN (Photo credit should read NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images)

You can now tip your Ola driver. The Indian ride-hailing giant said on Tuesday that it has rolled out this feature to its users in India, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom -- all the nations where it currently operates.

Ola said riders in each market will see a range of denominations they can pick as the amount they wish to tip digitally. It has plans to soon allow riders to pay a custom amount of their choice, a spokesperson told TechCrunch.

All of Ola's 2.5 million driver partners globally -- from those who operate two-wheelers to four -- can receive tips, the nine-year-old ride-hailing giant said.

The addition of this feature comes as Ola looks to broaden its efforts to help its driver partners who have been financially hit in recent weeks after New Delhi and several other governments across the globe enforced a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Uber first introduced the tipping feature in some states in the U.S. in 2017 and has since expanded it to many more states and nations. It rolled out the tipping feature to its users in India early this year.

Driver partners on both the platforms have long expressed the need for a tipping feature to supplement their incomes after both the companies gradually reduced the incentives they had bandied out in the early years.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, our driver-partners have worked tirelessly to enable essential travel for all those in need, despite facing their own challenges. As services resume, they continue to personally invest in ensuring the safety of their customers and deliver a comfortable ride experience,” said Anand Subramanian, a spokesperson at Ola.

“Linking rewards to higher-quality services, we invite our customers to join us in sharing our appreciation and supporting them during these trying times. Not only will the new functionality provide an opportunity for drivers to increase their earnings but will also showcase how a small gesture of solidarity and support from customers will drive our driver-partner community to go a long way,” he said.

In recent months, Ola has announced a range of relief packages, including exempting lease rental to assist its driver partners. It has also committed to provide driver partners with a few hundred dollars if they or their family members test positive for COVID-19. Uber has yet to offer any significant aid to its driver partners in India.

Like their driver partners, both Ola and Uber have been hit with the global pandemic as well. Ola said last month it was cutting 1,400 jobs, or 35% of its workforce in India. Days later, Uber said it was eliminating 600 jobs, or 25% of its local workforce, in the nation. India is a key overseas market for Uber.

Indian food delivery startups Swiggy and Zomato have also introduced a tipping option in their apps in recent months.