When the rains begin, so will the surge on taxis, and the refusals to ply. We test-ride 5 ride-sharing services to find you the best alternatives
The new entrant in the industry, Together We Go (ToGo), was launched last month. The signing up process requires you to verify yourself via your official email address. Your photograph and company’s name shows up on your profile.
You type in routes relevant to you, and it automatically adds you to a group. You even have the option of picking a gender-specific group. The app then functions like a WhatsApp group. People post their exact routes and time of departure. If you’re a car owner, you can allow others to ride. If you don’t own a vehicle, you can request a carpool, or request to share a cab and split the cost.
One evening, I carpooled from Elphinstone to Thane (W) with three men who work nearby. They were friendly, and I did not feel uncomfortable even though they were strangers. For a nearly 35km ride, I paid `85 — which is extremely economical.
The app has a couple of drawbacks. Twice when I posted a request, it matched me with users on the same route, but with those who had probably posted a few hours back. Also, while a vehicle owner can view the profile of a person requesting a carpool, I could not see the profile of the vehicle owner.
— Manali Shah
The driver picks me up from Elphinstone Road. No prior, “Sir, kidhar aana hai?” It’s a white Swift DZire, one of the most popular cars on Uber’s network. It’s empty. I pick the front seat, my old CST-Ballard Estate-share-cab instinct kicking in. You sit in front to avoid being quashed against a potentially sweaty, bulky co-passenger. Mind you, my old share cab route mostly had cramped Padminis. And there wasn’t any air-conditioning. This was better. I was paying less than what I would at the moment in an UberGo at 1.5 surge. I’m not wary of sharing a ride (I know people who are). Oh, and two words: carbon footprint.
“Sir, share pe hai?” the driver asks. He looks slightly dejected. I assumed he would know beforehand. But, apparently, Uber doesn’t give drivers the option of choosing whether or not to be on Pool. And drivers don’t like that. Why? Routes get long-winded, my driver says. He’s been on a flyover, and had to circle back to pick up someone below it, he says.
Five minutes in, the driver’s device buzzes. There’s another pick-up, from my office building, which we’ve now left behind. He prepares to circle back, but the passenger cancels. If we did go back, that’d have been a good 15 minutes extra.
Eventually, I have the ride to myself. I speak to friends who’ve tried it, and lot of them also say they’ve had shared cabs to themselves. Evidently, Mumbai’s yet to warm up to Uber Pool. It’s surprising. A city that quashes itself into local trains is wary of sharing a cab home.
— Sarit Ray
Ola has a simple enough model: let’s do what Uber does outside India, before they do it in India. A taxi aggregation service? Let’s do it before they get here. Ride sharing? Ditto. In that, they’re the Flipkart to Uber’s Amazon. Naturally, they are already the more-established ride-sharing option. And, here’s the big advantage: they are cheaper; by a margin. For my office-home route, an Uber Pool ride says `158. At the exact same time (6pm), an Ola Share is for `109.
The first time I take Ola is a few months back. I get a Wagon R, with an already-seasoned ride-sharing couple. One’s corporate, the other’s in advertising, and they chat so much, it feels less like an Ola ride, and more like Bla Bla Car.
The next time I try to book an Ola Share, I’m in for a bit of a shock. The driver refuses to ply, saying he’s too far. And when I tell him that’s not how it works, he tells me, “You’ve booked the cab, not bought it.” Ouch.
Of course, that could well have happened on a regular, non-sharing ride.
If the cheaper pricing works to Ola’s advantage, the lack of a wallet option does not (*Correction: Ola reached out to HT48Hours to clarify that it does, in fact, have a wallet option on Share). On Share, you can only pay cash. That said, Ola, at present, has a wider Share network than Uber.
— Sarit Ray
To sign up, you need to fill a form on smartmumbaikar.com (gender, route, departure time, gender preferences of your co-commuters). A verification email is then sent to your email address. Following this, you are added to a WhatsApp group (managed by Smart Mumbaikar).
I’ve been using the service fairly regularly for the past month, and rides usually happen during rush hour. I find it difficult to get a radio cab in my locality (Ghodbunder Road, Thane) in the mornings and, when I do, the surge price is between 2 to 2.5. So, a service like this really helps. Smart Mumbaikar charges you `200 per month for the service, and `80 for each ride. So, it’s a real cost-saver.
I travel from Thane to Lower Parel — a popular route. The rides have also resulted in networking. I’m a copywriter at an ad firm, and I’ve met several professionals from the industry.
I like the fact that you don’t have to exchange cash at the end of the trip. You could transfer the money through PayTM to the individual’s m-wallet.
— Devashish Jaamb
— As told to Manali Shah
Compared to other carpool apps, LiftO’s registration procedure is quite complicated. To sign up, one needs to have a LinkedIn account. If not, Apple users are required to send a picture of your company’s ID card through Snapchat. If you’re an Android user, you can sign in through Facebook.
Additionally, the app does not accept cash. Payments must be made through PayTM wallets — which is a big drawback in a country where most people still prefer dealing in cash.
After the tedious registration, we tried getting a ride from Colaba to Lower Parel at 8.50am. However, no ride was available for nearly 20 minutes. We also tried carpooling on our way back home the same day, at 8.30pm, but still no luck. Perhaps the route isn’t a popular one, we thought, and gave the app a shot from Chembur to Lower Parel one morning, but we still didn’t find a ride.
— Shradha Shahani