Kerala’s local taxi operator body Ernakulam Car Drivers Welfare Society has launched a Kerala Taxi app (website) to let users book taxis online, reports Deccan Chronicle. The pilot project has 100 drivers and plans to add all the 3,000 taxi drivers in the Ernakulam district to the taxi booking app. The report adds that the service will charge a round trip fare, where the minimum charge to get a taxi will be Rs 150.
Interestingly, drivers from all unions including independent drivers can sign up on the platform. A Hindu Business Line report states that the body plans to expand this service to other districts of Kerala soon. It states that the body expects taxi fares to come down as more drivers join the platform.
The plan for this launch is at least 5 months old, both Scroll and TOI report that the Centre for Indian Trade Unions, the trade union wing of the CPM party was to launch an experimental service in the state. Scroll adds that Taxi Drivers’ Welfare Society then had 200 members, which would be expanded by adding drivers from various unions and be trained on multiple skills. At that time, Uber said that it had 1,500 drivers on its platform in Kochi. TOI adds that the service would offer even inter-city and interstate rides at Rs 150 for the first 5 kms and Rs 15 per km after that. It said that 1,000 drivers had signed up for the service from the district.
As of now, Uber and Ola are available in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, while Ola also offers the yellow black taxis from Kolkata and Mumbai. Kerala also has other local players like Taxio, Hello Taxi, women only SheTaxi, TaxiCarKerala and Kerala Taxi among others.
Online vs offline tussle:
The fight between online and offline services has gotten ugly with destruction of property, threats to users of online services, threats to drivers and even the pig-headedness of certain users. This may reduce as more and more drivers sign up with local taxi providers instead of multinational companies. However, the question of revenue generation for local taxi providers remains, given Uber and Ola’s heavy reliability on incentives as well as surge pricing rates and their own business models which lets their drivers earn upwards of Rs 75,000 per month.
The move of offline taxi service providers into the online highlights the loss of revenues they are facing due to companies like Ola and Uber. The latter have a system in place and their mainstay is the cab aggregation business. While the move is good for local providers and is also a step forward in digitisation, will users be okay with shelling out Rs 150 as minimum fare if a ride costs less than that? Competition is great, but it doesn’t always lead to better service. Another pro drivers on Ola and Uber point out is the flexibility and continuity of getting rides and hence getting paid. Overall, we hope that this leads to not just better service, but also reduced problems in the online and offline ecosystems.