• Tue. Nov 29th, 2022

Commuting in Mumbai is very difficult with the type of transport available

ByElla E. Kidwell

Sep 22, 2022

Today morning I booked an Ola Auto from home to the office. The app showed the ride to be three minutes. I waited almost a minute and couldn’t find it at my location. During the follow-up, I learned that he had not moved at all from his initial position. So I called him to find out where he was. He told me that his bundle of nets was finished, that’s why I can’t follow him; it is just below my building. I rushed over and saw that there was no car. Again I called him and asked him where he was, he said his phone was broken so he couldn’t navigate to me. He gave me his location two minutes from my door, and since he was two minutes away, I thought I’d walk over to him. He still wasn’t there; I canceled my ride and was charged for the cancellation of my ride. In this whole process I lost 40 minutes and was bullied by Ola and the driver.

Let’s take another scenario if you want to travel to location A from B. A is an extremely populated area where the frequency of trips is high and B is the least frequent. As soon as you book a taxi they (Ola or Uber drivers) would not call or come to your house, instead they (not all) would wait for us to call them, after which they would ask where you need to go and after getting to know your location they would cut off your call saying they will come but after a while they won’t come and finally you have no choice but to cancel the ride (obviously you can report it to Uber or Ola but if you’re going for urgent work then those 30 mins of waiting to reach the customer manager or help desk is a hassle even if you manage to get them join, they will apologize for the inconvenience and you should prepare for another brutal experience.

These Ola taxi drivers don’t just cheat customers, they cheat their business too. For example, the taxi driver comes to your pick-up point. As soon as you get into the cab it tells you that I will cancel the ride, instead you give me the same amount that Uber or Ola showed before booking. And now, if I’m in a hurry, I will because I have to get to my destination as soon as possible. This is an example, but they have their different ways of tricking people. The irony is that Ola Uber drivers require a guaranteed monthly income of 1.5 lacs. Engineering and Medicine Even highly qualified degree holders do not benefit from this guarantee. They are not reasonable in their demands. Apart from all this, if you look at these cabins, you will find dirty car interiors as most drivers don’t bother to keep them clean every day. There are some smells they don’t bother to keep air freshener/perfume on to mask the foul smell. Most of the time the car air conditioning is not working, either there is a problem with the air conditioning or the driver wants to save on fuel costs. Car interiors are sometimes infested with mosquitoes as drivers keep windows open during the breeding season. Many drivers these days don’t use Google Maps navigation while driving; instead, they constantly ask the passenger to guide them in the right direction, which is very annoying.

Worst of all experiences is the one I had recently – nowadays most drivers are not allowed to cancel customer requests more than once or twice, so they use a nasty tactic and maybe be illegal to cancel a customer’s request – what they do is as soon as they get your request they drive a certain distance to your pick up point and enter into the app telephone that they have already taken care of you, then walk away and disappear. Once you realize this and hit cancel, you are charged with a Rs. 50/- cancellation fee, which you should contact customer service and dispute with them.

In addition, drivers on behalf of partners manage most of the Ola taxis, these cars are purchased on car loans for business purchase, and the owners of the car hardly drive these cars. About 50% of cars driving in the city are at risk of seizure by banks and other financial institutions, as most drivers are unable to repay their debts, which can lead to payment defaults, according to the brochure. He added that if demands for better pay and working conditions are not met, the drivers will go on a hunger strike. Drivers alleged that their income had dropped significantly as taxi companies continued to acquire more taxis while restructuring incentive schemes.

Without any real regulation on the number of taxis on the roads, their numbers have swelled. When Uber and Ola launched their services, they lured drivers in by offering extraordinarily generous incentives and facilitating car loans. Attracted by the charm of owning their taxis, and blinded by the incentives, many drivers did not question the sustainability of the prices they were led to offer. Nor did they question the longevity of the incentives. Over time, with enough taxis on their apps, companies removed most of the incentives. Some drivers will eventually have to stop playing their taxis, destroying their entrepreneurial dreams. Already, some have started to default on their loans, prompting some lenders to stop new loans to drivers wanting to buy cars and join the app-based taxi revolution. Companies making losses, they are then financed by venture capital and they are expected to make losses. Companies also have other problems. Companies consider their drivers as subcontractors. Drivers want to be considered employees. This is also true in India; too bad for all entrepreneurship. In the UK, a court has ruled that Uber should recognize its drivers as employees. There are also cases in other parts of the world. Recognizing drivers as employees would undermine the much-vaunted asset-light model of these companies.

However, as markets matured, the accountability systems of these companies grew stronger. Taxi services are gaining ground, as are pressures on these services to invest in their own infrastructure and conform to local standards. As the costs of these changes mount, the balance sheets of aggregators like Uber and Ola could start to look more and more like those of traditional players, making them potentially undifferentiated and unattractive to investors. Too big to fail: As mentioned, most aggregators operate on very light-resource models. That means someone else owns the infrastructure, staff, maintenance, amortization, compliance, and domain expertise – those companies come in and hoist an application on top of it and call theirs. What happens if and when they choose to stop or exit a market? The ecosystem that depends on demand generation and subsidies could potentially collapse.