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Kerala Taxi bids to give Uber, Ola a run for their money

KPM Basheer Kochi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on March 11, 2016

Kerala Taxi, the CPI(M)-backed online and app-based taxi hiring service, aimed at checking the rapid growth of cab aggregators such as Uber and Ola, has arrived.

About 100 licensed taxi drivers and their vehicles have joined the service promoted by the Ernakulam District Car Drivers Welfare Society, a cooperative society controlled by the CPI(M), in Kochi on Thursday. But, the All-Kerala Online Taxi Drivers Union, whose members belong to Uber and Ola, promptly dismissed it as a venture ‘doomed to fail.’

Instant hits

The Kerala Taxi service was conceived when Uber and Ola gained instant popularity in the city and wooed passengers from the conventional taxi drivers with substantially lower fares. Their growth was seen as a threat to the highly unionised and costly conventional taxi service. It also turned out to be a threat to the deep clout of trade unions, mainly those controlled by the CPI(M) and the Congress.

P Rajeeve, former Rajya Sabha MP and currently Ernakukulam district secretary of the CPI(M), who conceived the service, told BusinessLine that Kerala Taxi would be expanded soon. “We hope to take the service to other cities in Kerala shortly,” he said.

The service is now available 24x7 and the app could be downloaded from PalyStore. When a customer orders a cab, the message would go to four Kerala Taxi drivers in the locality and the nearest one would rush to the customer.

Higher fares

However, the fares are the same as those charged by the conventional taxis – two-way fare, instead of the one-way fare charged by the cab aggregators.

This means that, from the point of view of the taxi hirer, there is no gain for him. “When more drivers and cars join Kerala Taxi, the fare will come down and customers will find it more attractive,” Rajeeve said.

Scepticism

TRS Kumar, president of the All-Kerala Online Taxi Drivers Union, predicts that the new service will prove to be a huge failure. “Trust me, it will fold up in six months,” he told BusinessLine.

He pointed out that Uber and Ola are global operations, with high technology and huge capital at their disposal. “How can a cooperative society compete with such giants who offer quick, smart and highly efficient service at almost half the fare?”

The growth of Uber and Ola services in the city had led to conflicts between their drivers and the conventional taxi drivers as customers started shifting to the aggregators. There have been several instances of physical violence by unionised taxi drivers against those of Ola and Uber.

Many drivers now camouflage the cab aggregators’ logos and other identifying features to escape attacks and brawls. According to Kumar, there are 2,500-3,000 Ola-Uber taxis in service in Kochi.

Rajeeve said Kerala Taxi would train the drivers to offer passenger-friendly services. There would be no haggling with the passengers, who would need to pay the exact fare as shown by the app, he said.

Published on March 11, 2016
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