• Wed. Sep 21st, 2022

Post-Covid, it’s a bumpy ride for taxi drivers

Amid the consolidation of the VTC market and aggregation with the recent acquisitions of Meru Cabs by Mahindra Logistics and bus service start-up Shuttl and bicycle rental start-up Vogo by Chalo, he was difficult for taxi and bus drivers to maintain their livelihoods. . And with ever-rising fuel prices, only 50-55% of drivers in the pre-Covid period have returned to work in India, according to the Indian Federation of Application-Based Transport Workers.

Misfortunes galore

With almost no income, many drivers ended up selling their vehicles or the financiers took them away. For example, Hyderabad-based taxi driver B Kanakaiah saw his seven-seater Mahindra Xylo confiscated by the financier after failing to pay IMEs during the pandemic.

He worked for an IT company, where he made about four trips a day over a 12-hour period, which involved picking up and dropping off employees. He found the client through a sales company which acts as a middleman in exchange for commissions taken from the taxi drivers. These vendors also have their own fleet of cars separately.

“Once IT companies started working remotely, we lost our livelihoods. The client company had promised to pay us for a month, but we never received this money from the seller. Even after slowly starting to get back to work, they only needed 20% of the cars we serviced them with.

“The sellers seized the opportunity and started deploying their own cars. I managed to get my car back a month ago by paying it off with our gold jewelry and borrowing another ₹ 50,000. The financier had kept my car locked on a downhill, which charged an additional 5,000, ”Kanakaiah said. Activity area. He added that sellers typically cut $ 500 per trip if they arrive at the site 10 minutes or more late due to heavy traffic.

Kanakaiah now works with Ola and Uber and earns the bare minimum, he said.

In a similar situation, Vallabh Sudhakar, who operated two 12-seater wingers at HITEC City Hyderabad, had to look for work elsewhere when the IT industry closed its offices to work remotely. He accepted temporary driver jobs, but it was difficult to get a regular job. Unable to maintain his two wingers, he sold one of them months ago.

“Previously, we could manage at least 10,000 per month; now winning 2,000 has become a struggle. Right now there are more drivers on the road than there are passengers hailing for rides, and on top of that, fuel prices are high.

Wages divided by two

Shaik Salauddin, the national secretary general of the Internet Federation of Application-Based Transport Workers, pointed out that the sale and confiscation of cars has become commonplace. “The industry has been dispersed. Most of the drivers left this job and returned to their hometowns to take on other jobs such as driving tractors or working as laborers.

“In most cities, if we take an average, only 50 to 55% of drivers have returned to work. Yet there is hardly any business. Even though they do a few trips a day, their daily work includes 10 km or more of dry runs amid rising diesel prices. It’s not affordable, but taxi aggregators haven’t revised fares and continue to cut 25 to 30 percent, ”Salauddin said.

He added: “You will find a lot of drivers asking if you are going to pay in cash and where you want to go. Sometimes a driver plans to go home and the app points him to a distant route and he ends up going back 10 km without a passenger. It is costly for them. Tourism is not yet very active and our client companies in the IT sector all work from home. The drivers are not able to recover the cost of the operations.

“Previously, drivers could earn around 15,000 yen per month, but now, due to the lack of passengers and rising fuel prices, our monthly income at home has fallen to 8,500 yen on average.”

Slow renewal

Faisal Kawoosa, founder and chief analyst of techARC, said the taxi service industry is still looming under the impact of the pandemic and several companies are issuing guidelines to avoid public transport.

“These markets haven’t fully rebounded. Uber has given discounts, indicating that they want people to start using their services again, but that hasn’t happened in full force. It’s not about profit or loss at the moment, aggregators will consider resuming services, ”he said.

“Some companies and offices have issued guidelines discouraging employees from commuting to the office to take public transportation and taxis to work; only private cars are allowed. Carpooling was the norm before Covid in most industries for employees. This is a concern for many organizations that have taken over. The driver community would not be able to go without work any longer. They will have to find alternatives.

However, according to Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal in August 2021, the second wave actually saw a recovery three times faster by reaching 100% of pre-Covid GMV levels for OLA. He tweeted in September: “10 million people used Ola for the first time in FY21. Welcome Guys! When people are on the move, they want to feel safe and therefore switch to personal or shared mobility instead of public transport. Many are turning to automobiles, bringing our automotive business to nearly 150% of pre-Covid levels. “