Radio taxi company Meru Cabs has tied up with local AC taxis in Kolkata to make the latter available on its platform. Meru will act as a booking facilitator and provide its technology to the taxis, where users can book through the Meru app. Users will be charged Rs 20 extra as a convenience fee over the metered fare.
The taxis will come to pick the users up at their prefered location instead of hailing them from the street, similar to Ola and Uber’s services. Users will also get features like trip tracking and emergency contacts. Meru will train the taxi drivers in customer service and etiquette, as well as the use of technology from its Meru Training Academy. Meru Cabs currently claims to have 20,000 cabs across 23 cities, where it has completed over 35 million trips in the country.
Ola’s tie up with Kolkata taxis: Note that in August, online cab aggregator Ola had introduced Kolkata’s yellow taxis on its platform, where it claimed to have over a 1,000 yellow taxis on the app already with plans to register overall 5,000 taxis by November this year. Ola provided the taxi drivers with smartphones to help them accept rides and navigate to the location. Its not clear if there will be overlap of taxis working with both Ola and Meru or if the drivers will continue to engage only with one platform.
Taxis G7 alliance: Last month, Meru partnered with France’s Taxis G7 to launch eCabs, a global alliance of radio taxi operators which provides cab services to foreign travelers in India and to Indian travelers going abroad. eCabs has two app versions: a basic version which allows immediate booking and cash payments, and a premium version which allows pre-booking, credit card payments, choice in vehicles and other options.
Carpooling: In September, the company launched a carpool service in India, available across all of Meru’s 23 operational cities and tied up with Paytm for payment options. Aimed at reducing the one person per vehicle situation, Meru said that users would be able to save costs on personal transport through its service, and reduce the overall carbon footprint.
Funding: In March this year, Meru raised $50 million (~ Rs 300 crore) from existing investor India Value Fund Advisors. At that point, IVF had over 80% stake in Meru, and was expected to divest a part of its stake for the additional funding. In March, Meru claimed to have a fleet of 12,000 cars, out of which it owned 6,000.
Citrus Pay tie up: In October last year, Meru had tied up with digital payments solutions provider Citrus Pay to release an in-app prepaid wallet to offer cashless taxi rides. Earlier in 2014, the company had asked the Reserve Bank Of India (RBI) to extend its recurring billing guidelines to foreign players like Uber as well, thereby creating a level playing field among domestic and international players. This led to the RBI issuing a directive that entities which route online billing internationally for goods and services purchased online using Indian cards, need to include a second factor of authentication, and route transactions through a bank in India.