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Delhi cab drivers take to YouTube to tell their stories

A growing number of drivers with ride-hailing services in Delhi are taking to YouTube to tell their stories

delhi Updated: Sep 16, 2018 10:48 IST
Manoj Sharma
Manoj Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Dellhi,Delhi cab drivers,storytellers
Vijay Singh, a cab driver and Youtuber who runs his channel “Driver Dost” on Youtube in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, September 13, 2018.(HT Photo)

Goldy Singh, an Uber driver, calls his cab his “office on wheels” -– it is also his studio where he often films on his mobile phone his fellow drivers, sometimes his passengers and himself to make videos for his eponymous YouTube channel, which has about 20, 000 subscribers. He launched the channel in January this year to “motivate and advise” drivers, especially those working with ride-hailing companies who, he believes, are having a rough ride.

“Their incomes are dwindling fast; they need to be educated about how they can tide over the tough times they are facing,” says 33-year-old Goldy.

Not just Goldy, a growing number of drivers with ride-hailing services are taking to YouTube to tell their stories. Take, for example, Vijay Singh, another driver who runs ‘Driver Dost’, a channel with about 15,000 subscribers. Or Md Sharukh, who runs a channel called ‘Lucknow Sharukh’. Most of their videos deal with how drivers should navigate the complex, often not so cordial, relationship with ride-hailing companies, passengers, traffic police and transport authorities.

Goldy uploaded his first video, titled ‘The Real Income of Ola and Uber Business’, in January this year. In it, he talks about his monthly income as an Uber driver – which, he says, is around Rs 20,000 after deducting fuel costs and maintenance expenses -- and urges aspiring Ola and Uber drivers to weigh the pros and cons before signing up with ride-hailing companies.

“I uploaded the video and forgot all about it. After two weeks, I saw that the video had got about 12,000 views and my channel 76 subscribers. From the comments, I could make out that a lot of them were Ola and Uber drivers or those aspiring to be drivers,” says Goldy, who starts every video with, “Hello doston, kaise ho? Majein mein?” (Hello friends, how are you doing? Having fun?)

He shoots about four videos a week and has so far uploaded about 126 of them. The videos feature him talking to local and foreign passengers about India and their experience of riding with him; or him discussing the life of a driver with fellow drivers in a moving cab; or him guiding drivers to a competent car mechanic, and more. Many videos, including the first one, have logged over 100,000 views.

Vijay’s channel ‘Driver Dost’, which has nearly 15, 000 subscribers, has videos focusing on driver-related news snippets that have appeared in newspapers. Many of his 113 videos have him reading and explaining such snippets. “A lot of drivers either do not or cannot read newspapers; I explain how a particular news item affects them,” says Vijay, 30, who worked with Ola till 2017 but now drives his own taxi. Some of his recent videos are titled ‘Weekly updates for drivers’, ‘A cab driver shot dead in Delhi after a small argument’ and ‘This is how CNG stations cheat you’.

Each of these drivers has their unique style of anchoring their ‘shows’. The ever-smiling Goldy, who loves to wear colourful turbans, talks in a humorous way in a mix of Hindi, English and Punjabi. But Vijay , with his sharp handlebar moustache and dark glasses, makes his point in a no-nonsense style.

Sharukh, who launched his channel about four months ago, has copied Goldy’s style and starts his videos with, “Hello doston, aap log kaise hein, sab badhiya?” (Hello friends, how are you, all well?) “I have not met Goldy Singh but he is the one who has inspired me, ” says Sharukh, 25, who works for both Ola and Uber. He has uploaded about 50 videos.

“Drivers with ride-hailing companies have no idea who will ride with them, where they are headed, how long the trip will last or how the customer will pay, ” says Vijay. “As an Ola driver, I once got a rowdy bunch of drunk passengers at night. They abused me, tried to force me to drink and took me from one place to another looking for a liquor shop. The moment they stepped out to buy more liquor, I drove off without taking money.”

In a video series called ‘Drivers Debate’, Goldy narrates his experiences to fellow drivers: “Recently, I got a pool booking, a man came with a bag and placed it on the seat. He said the bag, and not he, will be travelling in the cab. When I protested, he made me speak to a madam who asked me to deliver the bag to her in south Delhi. We get many such bizarre requests every day.”

Many of Vijay’s videos have other drivers talking of their problems with customers and their companies; how they were initially heavily incentivized and then left to fend for themselves; and how their incomes have been plummeting. He started his channel in January 2017.

Asked if he does not think passengers are harassed by unscrupulous drivers and why he does not interview passengers, Vijay says, “It did not occur to me, I will soon start doing that.” He says he learnt shooting and editing videos on YouTube, and his only equipment are a mike and a selfie stick. In many of his videos, he plays a tech guru, offering tips on mobile holders, car chargers and car cameras, among others.

Two videos by Sharukh – he came to Delhi from Lucknow one and a half year ago for better prospects – are titled ‘Do not make this mistake in Ola share booking’ and ‘Beware, Ola rental booking’. There are videos where he talks about how some people who make rental bookings do not pay and simply disappear after using the cab for the whole day; or how Greater Noida and Faridabad are places where drivers do not easily get bookings.

“Now, there are too many drivers working for ride-hailing companies. A driver has to work for at least 15 hours a day to save Rs 700-800 after all expenses,” says Sharukh. “A lot of people, including me, bought new cars on loan and attached them to riding-hailing companies, but are now unable to repay the loans. I failed to pay my instalments for five months. Now, my life is at the mercy of an app.”

Subscribers to these driver-driven YouTube channels are growing fast, which is not surprising considering there are about 1.5 million drivers across the country working for Ola and Uber. Goldy says he adds 100 new subscribers every day, many of whom are common people from countries such as Canada. He says he likes to interact with his viewers and has so far answered 10,000 comments on his videos. “A lot of comments say how my videos make people happy, which is a great compliment for me,” he says.

Goldy, who used to work as an AC and refrigerator mechanic until 2016, follows the Sikh tradition of Daswand, spending 10 percent of his income on charity. The beneficiaries are his passengers who get free coffee, cold drinks, bottled water, biscuits, wafers and candies (for kids). Everything is listed on a bright pink menu, called Guru ka Langar, hanging on the back of the front seats of his cab.

“I offer water and coffee to passengers as soon as they enter the cab. Many of them like my coffee a lot,” says Goldy, who now wants to be known as a video blogger. “I want to make videos about the city, its people and places. Nobody is better placed than a driver to do so – a driver goes to different parts of the city daily, meets so many different people in his cab and listens to their stories as they talk during the ride.”

First Published: Sep 16, 2018 10:48 IST