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    Apple India Partners with Ola Cabs in a new Apple Music Deal

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    Varun Bhatia
    Varun Bhatia Nov 28, 2016

    Have you ever taken a really long cab ride listening to god awful music playing in the background? Have you felt so irritated by the driver’s choice of raucous numbers that you wanted to reach over and change the radio channel (And bop him on his head for his poor taste)?

    Well, if Apple’s plans take off in India, we just might be spared that torture. The company is going to join forces with Ola Cabs so that hapless passengers are no longer tormented by the driver’s choice of bad music. Instead, a new service called Ola Play will allow people to customize their journey, controlling everything through an in-cab tablet.

    The partnership was first reported by the LA Times

    The firm […] said the service will be made available in some of its vehicles as part of a platform called Ola Play. When passengers book an Ola ride, they will be able to interact with an in-car tablet to control the vehicle’s air conditioning, music, watch videos and even read ebooks.

    This deal comes at a time when both companies are struggling to make a mark in India and facing immense competition in their respective fields. In describing this partnership, Bhavish Agarwal, Ola’s Chief Executive, said, “Cars were initially built for the driver,”  he told YourStory. “But with ride-sharing, the control needs to be there for the passenger, and Ola Play works along that.

    Presumably, the service will only be available to Ola Prime customers, and that too only in a few circles of the big cities. Sure, it does add value to the overall cab hailing experience, but whether it’s incentive enough for people to switch over from Uber remains to be seen.

    Speaking of which, this deal between Ola Cabs and Apple is similar to a 2014 deal between Uber and Spotify. Back then, customers could control the music system inside the cab using their Spotify account. Despite being a novel idea, it lost the charm, then lost the steam, and died out eventually.

    It’s quite possible that something similar might happen with Apple Music as well. It could be “all the rage” for the first couple of months, and then when something better, more fun, comes along, we’ll forget this. And Apple is most likely aware of that.

    So, what does it hope to get out of the deal then?

    Maybe Apple’s idea is put to Apple Music on the map. There’s already a lot of competition in India when it comes to music streaming. Saavn, Wynk, Gaana, etc. control a huge chunk of the market. The recent addition of Jio Music is only going to saturate the market further.

    For Apple Music to get a grip here, it needs to something special. But, because people aren’t aware of this service in India, Apple’s partnership with Ola might be the unique angle the company needs to be recognised as a serious contender for music streaming,

    Apple’s second venture into Asia’s Ride-Hailing industry

    As pointed out by LA Times, “Analysts were quick to note that this is the second overseas ride-hailing company that Apple has either invested in or partnered with, suggesting that the Cupertino company may have plans to develop software or services for ride-hailing companies or even automakers.

    These are clear indications that Apple is looking to build a “service infrastructure” around the automobile industry and not necessarily a car per-say. All the data it collects from “Didi” (China’s Uber), and now Ola Cabs in India, is sure to go a long way in helping them achieve that goal.

    Apple has its heart set on Asia and this deal is one step towards creating presence here. How successful the endeavor turns out to be remains to be seen. In the meanwhile, one can at least dream of listening to some good music when stuck in a jam in India. #lifegoals

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