Taxi services

Are app-based taxi services losing their customer base in the city?

Frustrated by unreliable service, many are returning to other modes of transport

When app-based ride-sharing start-ups like Uber and Ola traveled to Bengaluru, they brought the promise of guaranteed rides with minimal hassle. However, the honeymoon period seems to be running out of steam with an increasing number of users complaining about high fares, unavailability of taxis and autorickshaws at peak times or when it rains, and especially abandoned journeys . The last of these was one of the reasons commuters switched from autorickshaws to these apps.

Frustrated by the uncertainty of service, commuters are turning to other modes of transportation, including their own car, public transit, or carpooling with friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc.

many users The Hindu said they were frustrated with long wait times, increasing numbers of ride refusals and cancellations by drivers, and unreasonable fare hikes. “These platforms are no longer a reliable option for commuting around town,” said Suman Joshi, a senior IT professional who embraced shared mobility a few years ago after selling her car.

Another commuter, Sudarshan Kumar, said he was disappointed with the service provided as almost all platforms are “unreachable” when it comes to addressing such issues. He remembers an experience that left a bad taste. “When I was trying to book a taxi once, the app booked two taxis in my name. Only one showed up and I took the ride. But I was charged a cancellation fee for the Wrong booking. I asked for a refund but the company refused it,” he said.

Kavery Hedge, a housewife, had a similar experience: “Runners are aggrieved and taken for a ride. Trips are often canceled after waiting more than 20 minutes. These are unduly levied cancellation fees even when drivers cancel trips. Uber doesn’t even have a repair forum for customers. Their app-based feedback system is a travesty. »

Disgruntled drivers

The partner drivers of these apps are also unhappy as their income is decreasing month after month. They say it’s impossible to do as many rides in a week as the taxi aggregators stipulate in a traffic-crammed city and make a profit.

Gunentu Sarkar, a driver with once aggregators, said, “Revenue dropped from ₹500 to ₹1000 per day. The city is so crowded that some days I can only do three or four trips. I do my best to stay away from trips to BTM Layout, Silk Board, Electronic City, Whitefield, etc.

Ravi Kumar, another driver, said his income had declined over the past few months. “I used to earn up to ₹70,000 a month three years ago, now I don’t earn even half that,” he said.

Price cap

In January 2018, the Department of Transport had notified maximum and minimum fare slabs for taxis operated by aggregators in the city. These were fixed according to the cost of the vehicle.

For example, for ‘D’ category vehicles (less than ₹5 lakh), passengers had to pay ₹44 for the first four kilometers, after which the rate per kilometer varied from a minimum of ₹11 to a maximum from ₹22.

Taxi drivers had opposed the move saying the move could only benefit the aggregator, not drivers or passengers. On numerous occasions, they demanded that the department repeal the tariff order. Many passengers also said the slabs gave them little relief.

According to a study by Uber, the fare cap mechanism introduced by the state has shattered the economic viability of the shared mobility model by reducing the net income of its partner drivers in Bangalore by 20%, compared to drivers in other countries. cities.

Prabhjeet Singh, Director of Business Operations, India and South Asia, Uber, said: “We believe that dynamic open-market pricing, which allows fares to rise and fall freely without a fare cap, is the best answer for a market of sustainable shared mobility. He adds, “Dynamic pricing is great for passengers and drivers because it keeps prices competitive for everyone. »

The capping regime has created a vicious circle. Falling incomes for drivers are causing a huge supply shortage and this scenario has in turn killed the demand for taxis, he added.

However, local transport company Ola declined to comment when asked to share their experience under the fare cap regime.

Drop in enrollment

Drivers say that as incomes decline over the years, the number of people using taxis has also declined. Taxi registration in the city has dropped for the second year in a row. Taxi registration fell for the first time in 2017-2018 with 16,595 vehicles. The downward trend continued in 2018-19 with the registration of 16,274 taxis.

Another driver, Rajashekara, said, “Due to low incomes, high targets set by aggregators, traffic growth and high operating costs, many drivers have turned to other jobs. I know many people who have been unable to repay bank loans and their vehicles have been seized.