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Cab apps: Reliable alternatives to unrealiable public transport

Over the last four to five years, public transport in India has begun to shift towards service providers that rely heavily on technology, mainly smartphones and GPS. Ola and Uber have not just become a reliable alternative to public transport but are also gaining ground as the first choice for upwardly-mobile city-dwellers.

smart phone survey Updated: Jul 22, 2016 14:58 IST
Kalyan Subramani
Ola and Uber have not just become a reliable alternative to public transport but are also gaining ground as the first choice for upwardly-mobile city-dwellers.
Ola and Uber have not just become a reliable alternative to public transport but are also gaining ground as the first choice for upwardly-mobile city-dwellers.(Prasad Gori/HT Photo)

Globally public transportation, more so in large cities, has relied heavily on local governments. As city populations grew, partly organically and largely due to migration from small towns and villages, local administrations were found wanting in providing reliable transportation.

Private alternatives such as autorikshaws and taxis stepped into the gap left open by governments. Of late, the private alternatives have acquired a technological edge.

Over the last four to five years, public transport in India has begun to shift towards service providers that rely heavily on technology, mainly smartphones and GPS. Ola and Uber have not just become a reliable alternative to public transport but are also gaining ground as the first choice for upwardly-mobile city-dwellers.

Technology-enabled cab aggregators have succeeded in quick time where governments have failed for three mains reasons – convenience, reliability, and affordability. The HT-MaRS survey of smart phone users shows that nearly half of those polled have a favourable disposition towards app-based cab-hailing services, which are seen as providing a more comfortable service than traditional buses and trains. To an equal measure, around 48% of the women who took part in the survey also believe that city transport has become safer due to these new service providers.

Read: Has technology invaded our lives with cab and food apps?

Cab aggregators have also brought in some innovation to ensure their services can be affordable to even those who continue to rely heavily on public transport due to its lower cost. (Sonu Mehta/HT Photo )

Ola, which claims to be the largest such service provider in the country, says it has more than 450,000 vehicles on its platform in 102 cities. These include cars and autorickshaws, with the former far outnumbering the latter. Uber, operating in 58 countries and 300 cities, says it has more than 350,000 cars on its network in 27 cities in India.

This entire alternative transportation eco-system has come up in less than five years.

Read: Here’s how apps are changing India’s food habits

Cab aggregators have also brought in some innovation to ensure their services can be affordable to even those who continue to rely heavily on public transport due to its lower cost. Both Ola and Uber now offer shared services that allows multiple customers to get a ride in the same vehicle at half or a third of regular fares.

According to an Ola spokesperson, Ola Share has helped keep more than 3.7 million vehicles off the road and saved more than 2 million litres of fuel over the last eight months.