Kartik Mehta, a Delhi-based IT professional, prefers to use a cab rather than his own car to get around in the city for both personal and professional purposes. And these days he hails a cab not by making a call, but tapping a request button on an application on his smartphone.
Within 10 to 12 minutes, a chauffeur-driver cab, often a Mercedes Benz or an Audi, arrives at his chosen location. And when he reaches his destination, he does not have to pay. The fare is automatically deducted from his credit card registered with the cab company.
“The good thing is that I do not have to call anybody and worry about whether the driver is willing to go where I need to go,” said Mehta.
Mehta is referring to Uber, an app-based cab service with operations in 160 cities across the globe, which launched its services in Delhi in December.
But Uber is more a technology company than a cab service. It does not own any cabs and does not employ any drivers. It is essentially an aggregator, which matches demand with supply.
It signs on thousands of car owners in the cities in which it operates and uses its technology backbone to book rides, depending on the type of car the customer wants.
Its revenue model: it charges the individual providing the cab a part of the fare. Its USP: the screening it subjects potential cab owners to, giving customers the comfort of a safe ride.
“When we launched our service, most of our customers were young, tech-savvy people, but now, people of varied age groups and backgrounds are using them. A big chunk are women,” said Gagan Bhatia, general manager, Uber Delhi.
In the past couple of years, several such new-age cab companies, such as Ola Cabs, Taxi for Sure and Taxi Pixi , have arrived in the city, bringing a whole new commuting experience to Delhiites.
Over the last three years, the number of radio cabs in the city has gone up three times from 2,200 to 6,500. Besides, there are 5,755 economy radio cabs in Delhi-NCR as well. The city also boasts of a taxi service exclusively for women and by women.
“Unlike other taxi companies, we do not do any branding on our cabs. The idea is to make our customers feel that they are riding in their personal, chauffeur-driven cars, which could be anything from a Toyota Corolla Atlis to a Mercedez Benz E-class,” said Bhatia.
Technology plays a huge role in the success of these companies. “Of the 7,000 booking requests we get every day, about 50% come through mobile apps,” said Anand Subramanian, director, marketing communications, Ola Cabs.
As Delhiites take to new cabs, it seems to be the end of the road for black and yellow taxis, all Ambassadors. Their number has come down from 10,000 in 2010 to about 3,000 today. A lot of their customers are foreigners for whom a ride in an Amby is an essential “India experience”.