For the first couple of years after Meru Cabs started operations, the company expected business to flood in through call centres and its online platform.

Seven years later, about 65 per cent of its revenues are coming in from its mobile application – Meru Mobile App.

The app was launched in 2013 and is driving usage for the company.

“Mobile app is the single biggest revenue-earner for us now. Even though the initial adoption was slow, it picked up well during the last six-seven months, mainly on rising adoption of smartphones,” said Rathin Lahiri, Chief Marketing Officer.

In India, the fastest growing telecom market in the world, there are about 920 million mobile users of which just about 120 million are smartphone users.

Similarly, for Ola (formerly Olacabs), about 85 per cent of its revenues are through its mobile app.

“The system of calling a cab has been in the country for over a decade now, but it didn’t scale up. When Ola started operations in 2011, the idea was to leverage the power of the smartphone as we saw the mobility race coming in,” said Anand Subramanian, Director, Marketing Communications, Ola. “It’s more of simplicity and efficiency that is enabling customers to download the apps,” Subramanian said, adding providing data (name of passengers, time and place of pick-up and drop) through an app is simpler as it will be stored in the system.

Customer convenience

The consumers are adopting apps as it gives them control. Unlike making a call, where it would be difficult for a call to get through, a cab could be booked with a simple touch.

Further, features such as time taken to reach the customer premises, payment by credit cards or mobile wallets are adding to the popularity of the apps.

“We confirm a taxi within two minutes and for a customer our app will provide the exact location of the driver and time taken to reach the pick-up point,” said Varun Kodnani, Founder of Cabzo. The company, with its app Cabzo, provides kaali peelis (black and yellow cabs) and Cool cabs (AC taxis) only in Mumbai.

For Uber, it’s 100 per cent of revenues coming from mobile apps as the company does not have a call centre.

“That’s the business model,” said Shailesh Sawlani, General Manager at Uber Mumbai.

However, the taxi aggregators have no plans to ditch their call centres and online presence anytime soon.

“We need the presence as many still don’t have smartphones. Moreover, there are elderly people who are comfortable in making a call,” Cabzo’s Kodnani said.

“In a highly under-penetrated market, we will continue to offer the call centre booking options,” Meru Cabs’s Lahiri said.

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