Chaalak Shakti, a cab union in Delhi, will be launching its own taxi-hailing app called SEWA to counter Ola and Uber. The union added that this was a reaction to reduced earnings from Ola and Uber. Drivers have been protesting in multiple cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The app will be launched on April 7 and will have more than 5,000 drivers on the platform. Sahdev Panchal, a leader of Chaalak Shakti, said that the union has contracted several service providers for technology, customer care, operations, marketing and other business related needs.
Ola and Uber drivers MediaNama spoke to said that the companies charge up to 25% of their earnings as commission. The SEWA app does not charge a commission like Ola and Uber but instead charges a fixed monthly fee of Rs.700.
Initially, SEWA cabs will only accept cash and will introduce other payment options such as wallets later. Money for all wallet transactions will also go directly into the cab driver‟s account instead of routing it through the union.
SEWA also has an interesting way of building a user base. Ola and Uber require a user to sign up for the service first and then hail a cab. SEWA has a feature called ‘Hail and Go’ where a user will be able to flag down a cab on the app on the street. Once a passenger enters a vehicle, the driver will ask for his mobile number and feed it into the fare meter built into the driver‟s app. The meter will start immediately.
Note that SEWA said that it will not charge surge pricing but has not mentioned how much it will charge as base fare and per kilometre. It also doesn’t mention how many trips a driver has to complete.
Chaalak Shakti added that it plans to become a national level union with a membership base of 80 lakh drivers by the end of 2018. It added that it will invite drivers from other unions and also include autorickshaws and black and yellow taxis.
Other driver unions launching apps
Earlier this week, drivers associated with Ola and Uber are now considering launching their own cab hailing app in Bangalore. More than 8,000 drivers part of the initiative which has received political backing from Janata Dal (secular) leader HD Kumaraswamy. Tanveer Pasha, president of Uber, TaxiForSure and Ola Drivers and Owners Association, said that the app will be ready in a month after making a formal announcement.
Note that two of Mumbai’s taxi unions (the Mumbai Taxi Association & Mumbai Taximen’s Union) said that they would launch an app through which users can book black and yellow cabs back in January 2016. But it looks like the app was discontinued in October 2016 due to lack of response from the commuters as well as cabbies themselves.