The “Ola” Effect

New apps causing distress among local drivers; reduction in customer loyalty and income for our underdogs.

Pic: Arindam DS

After the arrival of app based transport aggregators, such as Uber and Ola, the competition for customers is at an all-time-high. Due to resources that the multi-million dollar companies have, these apps provide dirt-cheap prices and unparalleled schemes to attract customers. The ones worst affected are the auto drivers that choose not to work under these companies.

With the entry of auto and taxi aggregators impacting their business, few auto drivers are also mulling to affiliate their autos to the aggregators. This is with a hope of making good business.

This new business model that the apps follow help affiliated drivers to find passengers close to their location, which allows for a smooth user experience for both, the rider and the driver. Girish, an affiliated auto driver, says “This Ola app is very convenient. Earlier I barely got 6-7 rides per day, the pay was nominal. Now I get more than 15+ rides, and the incentives that the company provides ensures a steady income,” Srinidhi claims.

Further he says, “sometimes we get less money, as Ola keeps advertising offers and free rides, but apart from that, it still pays more and is an easier method.”

But not everyone is happy; Vinod, an unaffiliated auto rickshaw driver says “Uber and Ola have reduced the number of customers I get. These apps have affected everyone like me.” Explaining his problem Vinod revealed that these apps encourage people to choose a cab over an auto, since the rate is similar- “Nobody uses auto rickshaws anymore; cabs are more common now”.

Unaffiliated drivers have ruled this sector for long; and they have had their fair share of success. Rickshaw unions have gone on multiple strikes in the past for price hikes and other reasons. But this time the reason is different, and it cannot be changed. Recently, around September 2016, the taxi and auto unions in Mumbai conducted many strikes, and blatantly asked for Ola and Uber to be banned.

Problems with unaffiliated drivers are that sometimes the driver may refuse to go to a certain location, or choose not go by meter. Some auto drivers even compel their passengers to pay extra. These issues simply do not exist with apps.

If you cannot beat them, join them. These new developments in the transport sector also provide opportunities, as Rajeshwar, an auto rickshaw driver says “I am thinking of joining Ola too, maybe next month. If you work under Ola, you will get customers almost all the time. No waiting and searching for customers; it saves gas, time and energy.”