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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Fare play:New cab apps join the game

“Unlike Ola and Uber, there are neither hidden charges nor surge pricing,” said Durgesh Tiwari, founder of CEO Cabs, which launched in February.

india Updated: May 13, 2019 08:16 IST
Kailash Korde
Kailash Korde
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Before Ola and Uber become popular from the end of 2014, black-and-yellow cabs were the only option for Mumbaiites if they wanted to avoid buses or trains.
Before Ola and Uber become popular from the end of 2014, black-and-yellow cabs were the only option for Mumbaiites if they wanted to avoid buses or trains.(HT Photo)
         

Over the past nine months, the entry of Jeo Cabs, Jiyo Cabs and CEO Cabs has shaken things up a bit for app-based taxi aggregators Ola and Uber as the city’s commuters look for alternatives. Another aggregator — Palkhi Cabs — is also set to enter the fray soon.

Although the newest entrants are less popular, they are managing to attract customers. These aggregators are ensuring cheaper rides at flat rates (exempt from surge pricing), offering free trip cancellations and also less waiting charges. They already have more than 10,000 app downloads on Google Play and over 6,000 cabs. According to experts, the aggregators will benefit commuters if a price war takes place between them and Ola, Uber.

“Black-and-yellow taxi drivers rampantly refuse rides and surge pricing [rise in fares according to demand] of Ola, Uber hassles commuters. In such a situation, if these new aggregators provide services at flat rates, they will certainly make an impact,” said AV Shenoy, transport expert.

“Unlike Ola and Uber, there are neither hidden charges nor surge pricing,” said Durgesh Tiwari, founder of CEO Cabs, which launched in February.

Unlike Ola and Uber, who charge at least 15-20% commission from drivers, these new aggregators are either charging marginal or no commission. CEO Cabs is charging no commission to the drivers, while Jiyo Cabs recently started charging 11% commission.

“Earlier I used to work with a popular aggregator, but I was barely able to save anything after 12 hours of work. Here, I have to pay less commission and am also getting enough bookings daily,” said Sameer Sharma, who works with Jeo Cabs, which launched its app from September 2018.

Before Ola and Uber become popular from the end of 2014, black-and-yellow cabs were the only option for Mumbaiites if they wanted to avoid buses or trains. According to commuters, rampant ride refusals, rude drivers and shabby vehicles made them shift to app-based cabs.

Because of air-conditioned cabs, easy bookings, payments, live tracking, doorstep pick-up facility and heavy discounts, scores of commuters preferred Ola and Uber, mainly for long- distance rides.

Later, surge pricing and some other issues like refusals by drivers turned away some commuters. Several drivers also got upset owing to higher commissions and other issues, leading to two week-long strikes against Ola and Uber in March and October 2018. During this period, several commuters and drivers switched to Meru Cabs, which was earlier offering phone-call services under a state government scheme to upgrade taxi services, but did not prove to be of much benefit to commuters.

The unions of black-and-yellow taxi drivers had launched an app, 9211 Cabs, but it was not a success. In May 2018, another aggregator launched an S3 Cab app, but it also failed owing to a limited number of cabs.

“In the past few years, people were looking for an alternative to Ola and Uber and we have tried to provide it,” said Rajesh Jaiswal, operation manager of Jiyo Cabs, launched October 2018.

None of these aggregators were willing to disclose their source of funds . It was learnt that these aggregators managed to get ₹5-25 crore from investors or venture capitalists. The aggregators said they do not have any problem with the enforcement of the Maharashtra City Taxi Rules 2017, which the government introduced to regulate app-based taxis. “We are ready to follow every rule,” said Prafulla Shinde, founder, Palkhi Cabs. He said as individual aggregators, they won’t be able to compete with Ola-Uber, but together they can certainly make a difference.