Why swearing Ola but not Uber makes no sense
Between Ola, Uber and all the other on-demand taxi services now operating in India, there is no shortage of controversies. Since a rape in December 2014, there have been a series of incidents where passengers have been assaulted, and even several cases recently where passengers realized their drivers were masturbating while driving. There’s no shortage of horrific incidents to talk about, no matter what service you’re talking about.
The problem is that when something goes wrong – as will inevitably happen in any system – these companies wash their hands, say they’ve worked to ensure drivers are properly vetted or talk about the measures of security that they added to the application.
The companies call themselves technology companies and strongly avoid being called taxi operators. The reason is simple: taxi companies have to comply with a lot of regulations, whereas a technology company has no such responsibilities. And that’s not even taking into account that the Ola taxi you get in in the morning might just be the Uber you take in the evening.
When an incident occurs, we quickly blame the company that was used to hail the taxi, but when the same car and the same driver can perform a different service each time they are traveling, perhaps the better question is to start asking for regulation of this sector as a whole.
Last week, the Delhi High Court asked Ola how she was doing in Delhi; we can be sure the legal back and forth will continue for some time to come, but in the meantime these companies continue to operate, claiming they are in a gray area. Ola’s statement on this shows exactly that – it’s a non-statement at best – as the company puts it: “We abide at all times by the law of the land and the directives of the judiciary. We are committed to strengthen citizen mobility and create a favorable ecosystem for driver-entrepreneurs through sustainable livelihood opportunities, within the legal framework.We will continue to work with the authorities to fulfill our commitment to the ecosystem.
(Also see: Uber is not a technology company)
The Indian Foundation for Transport Research and Training (IFTRT) has stated that all types of taxi service companies, whether domestic or foreign, must be regulated to have the responsibility of providing safe and smooth travel to clients. The IFTRT noted that the Delhi Motor Vehicle Rules 1993, under Section 93 of the Central Motor Vehicles Act 1988, prescribe licensing of all types of agents travel agents working as intermediaries, which should also apply to taxi aggregators.
That’s why, instead of looking at the situation on a company-by-company basis, we need to look at the industry as a whole, as taxis themselves could be on three different services during the day. Given how many people drive these cars every day, we need to start thinking about how these businesses operate. For example, Ola claims to book over 750,000 rides every day, with a fleet of over 250,000 vehicles, covering over 100 cities in India. Uber is set to invest $1 billion (around Rs 6,404 crore) in India and has major expansion plans for the country.
In other words, they are all in a hurry to recruit pilots. But Ola and Uber do not or cannot enforce exclusivity. While neither service responded to email questions about the exclusivity, in an earlier conversation with NDTV Gadgets, Uber’s head of India expansion Neeraj Singhal said. said the company does not require exclusivity. “We want to provide the best service and the best opportunities for pilots, so if they want to work with a competitor, it’s a void, we will fill it,” Singhal told NDTV Gadgets.
Meru says 30% of its fleet is exclusive, while 70% is under aggregators. He added that drivers go through an intensive training program on customer service, hygiene, safe driving habits and how to handle an emergency. Mega also did not respond to an email, but that means drivers can frequently switch between services to maximize their earnings.
We’ve all taken rides with an Uber and found the Ola logo on the side of his car. We all called an Ola and saw the second phone sitting on the charger, the familiar Uber display on the screen. This means that the issues you face won’t be tied to just one provider – if there are security issues with Uber (and there are), the same issues apply to Ola and TaxiForSure as well. The whole system needs to be regulated and we already have the laws in place for that, as the IFTRT points out.
One driver we met shared how he starts his day with Uber, until he completes ten rides. The moment this happens, he switches to Ola and tries to get at least five trips. Another driver told NDTV Gadgets, “I use Ola, Uber, Taxi4Sure, all my friends too. It’s great because now you don’t have to wait for a taxi, and we find customers too.” Neither pilot wanted to be named, but after several more rides, with more pilots, it becomes clear that this is a common occurrence.
We’ve come across quite a few social media users who are giving up on Uber forever. We’ve also seen people promise they’ll never use Ola again. Most of these cases are just hyperbole, but there are certainly people who are sincere about these statements. But when you swear off Uber or say you’ll never use Ola again, as long as you ride in a taxi services, you most likely drive in the same car, with the same driver. So let’s not call for a ban on Uber or Ola. Call for an overhaul that can properly regulate these services, instead of letting them pretend there is a difference between a fleet of taxis and an aggregator.