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What started in Mumbai and Hyderabad also affected Bangalore yesterday, after drivers on the Uber platform vandalised Uber’s HSR Layout office, according to this NextBigWhat report. The report added that the drivers were protesting against the lack of proper incentive structure.

In a statement to MediaNama, Bhavik Rathod, Uber’s Bangalore GM, said that a handful of drivers were protesting outside its Bangalore office, and had been instigated by ‘specific groups and associations with vested interests, determined to disrupt our operations… and on a quest to instil fear and uncertainty amongst the driver community’. He added that ‘the vast majority of its drivers in Bangalore had positive sentiment towards the company’.

Protests against car aggregators and self drive cars in India

1. The beginning: Taxi strike

In June 2015, taxi drivers and auto rickshaws went on strike protesting against apps like Ola and Uber in Mumbai. As many as 150 cabs were damaged in violence and incidents of regular cabs overcharging were reported after cab aggregators did not ply their cabs in the city.

2. Taxi union in Leh-Ladakh goes on strike against self-drive cars

Towards the end of July, Zoomcar issued advisory to its users after the taxi union of Leh-Ladakh started damaging cars and threatening users of self-drive cars from entering the area. All outside cars were being restricted from entering Leh, despite Zoomcar’s commercial vehicle designation allowing its users to drive anywhere in India without a special driver’s license of badge.

3. Mumbai groups demand aggregators only allow Marathi speakers/domiciles to drive

The following month, some of Uber’s cars were damaged, its drivers assaulted and Uber-issued mobile phones taken away in Pune and Mumbai, by some groups of people. Uber claimed that ‘politically motivated groups’ threatened to shut down aggregator services in the city, demanding that public service vehicle badges be issued only to those who lived in the state for over 15 years and could read and write in Marathi.

4. Hyderabad Uber drivers protest incentive cuts

In August, a part of Uber’s Hyderabad driver base protested incentive cuts. Telangana Cabs and Bus Operators’ Association president Syed Nizamuddin alleged that drivers were not earning the promised Rs 70,000 monthly due to reduced number of trips and incentive slashes. Uber told Medianama that ‘less than 0.5% of its base of driver partners in Hyderabad expressed concerns regarding temporary incentives’ and it was working to address individual concerns.

5. Uber revises fare charges after regulatory intervention

In the same month, Uber restructured its ride fare for pick ups at the Mumbai Domestic (1A and 1B) and International airports (P4 and P6), to include a mandatory surcharge of Rs 110. Uber also increased its per kilometer fare for trips that went beyond 15 kms in Bangalore ‘to ensure the economics work for drivers providing longer (distance) trips’.

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Brought under the motor vehicles act

Earlier this month, the Maharashtra state government proposed that online cab aggregators be brought under the ambit of the Motor Vehicles Act. However, last week, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issued an advisory citing terms and conditions for online cab aggregator companies to ply.

– Read more about timeline of regulation issues and passenger safety (after the Delhi rape case) here.

MediaNama’s take:
The battles for online aggregators are intensifying, as we had expected. Earlier this month, the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) called for a one day nationwide strike to protest against the online sale of pharmacy to protect its interests and that of the consumers.

With cab aggregators, we’ve pointed out before that incentives are bound to change as companies change their strategies and business decisions. Acts of vandalism do not guarantee a higher income, and in some cases may even lead to the suspension of drivers if companies do not want to be associated with them.

Uber, for example, told us before that the variable nature of incentives is made clear to the drivers when they join the platform. Perhaps informing the drivers more clearly that incentives of X amount will last for Y months, and will be changed periodically, as per the company’s policies, is a solution. Moreover, drivers also need to note that aligning with other, say, offline unions or political groups will not help their cause because aggregators will not be liable for either of their associations with the groups.

There’s no solution in vandalism, but there is in dialogue.

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Uber’s full statement:

“Yesterday we saw protests outside our offices by a handful of drivers. Upon investigating, we quickly discovered that these drivers were being instigated by specific groups and associations with vested interests, determined to disrupt our operations towards providing the city of Bangalore with reliable and safe urban mobility options. Unfortunately, we have also learnt that these groups, who claim to represent our driver partners, are in fact on a quest to instil fear and uncertainty amongst the driver community, preventing them from earning an honest living on the Uber platform.

At the same time, we are deeply heartened to see the support from tens of thousands of hardworking drivers who continue to serve the city and its residents by providing a high quality transportation service. Our driver community in Bangalore continues to grow rapidly as more and more individuals including former taxi and auto drivers, professional chauffeurs, students, young professionals, the underemployed and the unemployed are thriving driver entrepreneurs on the Uber platform. In fact, the vast majority of our driver base in Bangalore has an overwhelmingly positive sentiment towards Uber. This is evident from the fact that Bangalore, our first city in India, remains one of our largest markets with a rapidly growing consumer base that ensures our driver partners continue to make a good living and Uber their urban mobility solution of choice.” – Bhavik Rathod, GM Bangalore, Uber

Image Credit: Used with permission from NextBigWhat