Taxi services in metropolitan cities have been among the hardest hit during the Covid-19 pandemic. With continuous lockouts, trips have been reduced, but expenses such as vehicle NDEs and maintenance costs remain.
At one time, taxi drivers in Mumbai had enough income to pay their expenses and business was booming.
Deepak Nikalje, 37, arrived in Mumbai six years ago and has worked with a taxi aggregator for four years.
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Nikalja was able to write off his car loan just before the foreclosure in February 2020, but there are other financial obligations he is unable to meet.
âFinancial problems due to foreclosure are on the rise – home loans, rising fuel prices and annual vehicle maintenance. We are barely able to make ends meet and the future is bleak, âNikalje said.
Prakash Khandchandani, 50, is a taxi driver who received legal advice from a finance company for failing to pay two IMEs for his WangonR.
âI have been paying down payments since 2018. Due to the confinement, I was unable to pay two down payments and therefore received a formal notice. After that, I sold gold jewelry and paid the down payments, âKhanchandani said.
Each year, tourist vehicles pay Rs 40,000 for the RTO passage. In addition to this, there are other expenses like the price of fuel, the commissions to the taxi aggregators that have to be paid by them.
âOur future is bleak. I don’t think we’ll be able to keep it that way. Many drivers have sold their vehicles to make ends meet. I’m lucky that my brother is supporting me financially, otherwise I don’t know what I would have done, âadded Khanchandani.
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A spokesperson for Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services Ltd said we had approximately 90,000 taxi drivers as of March 31, of which 6,000 were clients under stress.
âThe taxi driver portfolio represents less than 4% of Mahindra Finance’s total portfolio, but this segment has been affected during the pandemic. We also believe that continued engagement with Cab customers will encourage them to stay invested in the business that should rebound in the medium term, “said the spokesperson.
âWe have contacted almost all clients individually last year as well as this year on an ongoing basis and in addition to supporting them through moratoria and restructuring, we have also conducted CSR campaigns, during the lockdown in addition major centers like Delhi, NCR, Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, etc. Added the spokesperson.
The company said the standard procedure for any non-payment of IMEs results in a follow-up with the customer.
âWhile most customers struggled initially after the foreclosure, most of them started paying for the foreclosure lifted and the market opened. We are working closely with the driver community and have taken note of their situation during the lockdown by extending a moratorium to 6 months, as authorized by the regulator last year, âthe spokesperson said.
The company has extended the ability to restructure its loan agreements as they see fit during this quarter, including very small IMEs and extended terms.
âIf a client is unwilling to restructure, they can continue to repay according to the original contract. We have partnered with customers who are loyal to our business model and are accommodating them in this difficult situation, âsaid a spokesperson.
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