Dharminder Kumar, 42, of Pawat Pind close to the Chandigarh airport is not the only one who left a stable and decent-paying job to become a cabby in an app-based taxi company, only to regret.
His previous job gave him Rs 20,000 a month. “Greed made me take a stupid decision. I quit a secure job with a good boss, since I heard my friends were making up to Rs 60,000 a month being taxi drivers. In the last month-and a-half, OLA and TaxiForSure started cutting incentives. Now I earn Rs 1,000 a day with great difficulty,” Kumar added.
Kumar says OLA used to pay its drivers an incentive of Rs 12,500 for hatchbacks and Rs 15,500 for sedans, and now there’s none. TaxiForSure, which would give them Rs 110 per ride as inducement, now has brought it down to Rs 45. Also, between 2am and 5am, only meter charge is given to drivers - no incentive. “There is no security of income anymore. I rue my decision,” said Kumar, a father of three.
Incentives went downhill
Without incentives, drivers are finding it hard to pay the monthly instalments of cars they had bought. Manmohan Singh, 50, pays a mortgage of about Rs 15,000 a month for a Swift Dzire, but earns only Rs 1,200 a day, of which he spends about Rs 600 on diesel and food.
“I have two children and a wife to take care of in Patiala. I have no place to live in Chandigarh, since I can’t afford to pay rent,” he said, “I sleep in my car outside different hotels at night,” he added. Another cabbie, 26, who lives in Phase 4, SAS Nagar, and works for OLA is doing this as a job to supplement his income. He is an operational manager for an immigration company in Phase 5, SAS Nagar. “The only reason I do this is to ensure there is a regular inflow of money in my bank account. I know I will need a loan in the future for a house or my kids’ education, at that time this can be shown as a record.”
‘Left with no choice, but to sell cars’
“Around two-and-a-half months back, OLA decided that they would pay Rs 1,360 a day in spite of number of daily trips. But nothing of the sorts happened,” the Phase-4 cabbie said.
“I earn approximately Rs 38,000 a month. Of which, I spend Rs 14,200 on the monthly instalment for my Skoda Etios and diesel of Rs 500 a day that means another 15,000 on diesel a month. We need to service our cars every other month, which is another Rs 5,000 expenditure.” He makes only Rs 4,000 a month after these deductions. “The drivers repeatedly goes on strike due to fewer incentives that further affect my income. As of now, I have been managing somehow. However if losses increase, I will sell my car,” he added.
Money at the cost of exhaustion
There is still some money in the profession, but only for those willing to slog for 20 hours a day, which brings to question the flexible hours this profession claims to offer.
Bakshish Singh, 19, who lives in Balongi in Kharar, and drives for TaxiForSure, says two months back he would make Rs 20,000-Rs 25,000 in two weeks, which has now reduced to Rs 10,000-Rs 12,000.
“I have done my Class 12 and DCA diploma in computer education and I wasn’t getting a job for months. Someone told me there was money in the profession, so I bought a Swift, for which I paid Rs 14,000 every month, without much thought.”
He lives alone, while his family lives in Ferozepur. “I am the only earning hand in the house as two of my younger sisters are studying. I should be sending money home, but there is barely anything left. I have to get my sisters married. I have a feeling that I will eventually have to sell my car.” He works 18 hours a day with barely any sleep to ensure timely payment of instalments.
Another TaxiForSure driver, 26, (name withheld on request) from Sector 38 West, Chandigarh, said he worked 18 to 20 hours a day with almost no breaks, “all to earn Rs 2,000 a day. People, who have families to support can’t afford to do that,” he said, “but TaxiForSure made it clear in the beginning that the incentives could even be as bad as zero.”
Drivers misused incentive offer
Other taxi drivers also see it practically. “How long can a company afford to give incentives? Taxi companies now have more drivers than the incentives they can afford to pay. Many drivers were surviving on just incentive without working, so the companies were forced to pay them by the trips as opposed to by the hours earlier,” says Gurinder Singh, 52, who drives for TaxiForSure. He is waiting to see if the companies come up with new incentives.
Sources in the industry say that drivers had been misusing the incentives from mobile-appbased companies. Even earlier, the incentives were meant only for high performers. OLA and TaxiForSure authorities declined to comment.