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Testing choppy waters, Ola launches boats in flood-ravaged Chennai

Sindhu Kashyap
17th Nov 2015
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While the Army and the Air Force are working tirelessly to rescue several citizens marooned in the Chennai rains, several citizens and now even startups like Ola are working to help people reach safer areas.

The Ola team in Chennai, in collaboration with some professional rowers and fishermen, deployed boats to several partially submerged and water-logged areas of the city. These areas were decided on the basis of the information provided by the Fire and Rescue Department of Tamil Nadu.

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Ola boats to the rescue.

These boats are also transporting food and drinking water to areas that are believed to be short of basic supplies. Manned by two rowers, one boat can ferry five to nine people in one round. Ola has provided rain gear to the rowers, and a stock of umbrellas for the people being rescued. Local fishermen and the Chennai Sports Fishing Company are helping Ola to touch base with the rowers and fishermen.

The boat service will be available for the next three days. The team says that if the situation of water-logging in the city continues, the services will continue. Several drivers and employees are working with the rowers to ensure smooth operations.

Ravi Teja, Business Head of Tamil Nadu at Ola, says that looking at the heavy rains and the water-logging situation in Chennai, the team decided to help in ways they could. He adds that while there is an increased demand for transportation in the city, the main aim is to ensure that people reach safer areas.

Since November 9, close to 71 people have died in several rain-related accidents in Tamil Nadu. Some low-lying areas are still waterlogged and areas like Tambaram are worst hit trapping close to 2000 people in their homes. There are several people in the state who are being air-lifted by the Air Force to safer areas. The Army is also using boats to ferry people.

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This isn’t the first time one of the startups have shouldered the responsibility of doing their bit during a natural disaster. Earlier, during the Uttarakhand cloudburst in June 2013, startups like airpix.in offered drones for aerial surveillance and delivery of medicines to disaster areas.

During the Nepal earthquake, Ola was diverting a part of the Ola Money towards the Prime Minister’s relief fund. Paytm, FreeCharge, Flipkart, Ketto, Jombay, ShopClues, and Oxigen among many others contributed their bit. This included giving missed calls that contributed money, a percentage of daily transactions, counselling chat rooms, deployment of drones, sending doctors, and many other such initiatives.

This move from Ola is, of course, a good social gesture but at the same time it’s a well-timed marketing gimmick. It will spread a positive brand awareness of Ola across the country.

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