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Tip the Uber driver: What can India learn from New York

Uber drivers in New York might soon be tipped, as falling incomes continue to be a matter of concern. India can lend some thoughts and implement similar features in India.

business Updated: May 27, 2017 10:55 IST
Sunny Sen
An Uber driver cleans his car as his cell phone shows the queue to pick up passengers departing Guarulhos International Airport.
An Uber driver cleans his car as his cell phone shows the queue to pick up passengers departing Guarulhos International Airport.

Uber and Ola -- both cab-hailing applications -- have found themselves amid controversies of falling driver income and long inhuman working hours.

For Uber, the American company, this isn’t new. It has faced similar complains from drivers all over the world, and India is not different. That is also why there is a reason why Uber should take some tips to learn from its operations in New York.

Tipping taxi drivers has been like an old ritual except in the rise of the gig economy, where everyone wants to pay less. That is also why cab services such as Uber’s became so popular -- hail a cab at any time from anywhere for half the cost of the regular cab services.

But, with fading away incentives, drivers have been forced to come down on the street and hold protests against dropping incomes. At times, drivers have told this writer that it becomes difficult to pay for fuel, maintenance and the instalment of the vehicles.

One of the solution to this rising problem is in what Uber is doing in New York. The company, according to one of its spokesperson, quoted in New York Times, is reviewing the proposal.

The proposal was placed by the Taxi and Limousine Commission to allow Uber passengers to tip drivers using credit and debit cards. In India, they will have to include, Paytm or any mode of mobile wallet that Uber uses.

According to the proposal, the tipping process would help improve driver incomes and their well being, which is also a concern in New York. The petition, was first moved by the Independent Drivers Guild, a working lobby of Uber drivers, got 11,000 signatures, according to the report.

Cut India, Uber has more than 2,50,000 driver partners and its local rival Ola claims 6,50,000. Every day these drivers do millions of rides. If an average of Rs 10 is taken, for rides, a driver can make up to Rs 50 every day, over and above what they earn.

That can be a good measure, considering driver incomes have fallen to a third from its peak.

According to the report, Travis Kalanick, founder and CEO of Uber, thinks that the tip feature would have an impact of the app-user experience, and hence it has not been implemented.

If the commission moves the petition, which will go through a public hearing, where the drivers and passengers will give their inputs on the tipping feature. After the hearing, the commission will cast its vote.

In India, such decisions are taken either by the court, or by the transport ministry. However, so far, there have been no conversations on tipping the Uber driver in India.