If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em this seems to be the mantra of Mumbai's cabbies; a month after holding the city to ransom by going on strike to protest against mobile app-based taxi services, the taxi union is now going to approach Transport department to launch their very own version
After resisting cab aggregators like Uber and Ola, taxi unions in the city have realised there is a better way to attract customers than holding them to ransom. Taxi unions are considering introducing a mobile app through which users can book a black-and-yellow cab, potentially paving the way for a sea change in the way the city’s public transportation systems function.
Union leaders will have a meeting on July 26 to work out the modalities of their mobile app. “We will soon send a proposal (of the app) to the state Transport department. We are presently working out how it will function,” said A L Quadros, taxi union leader.
Union leaders said they will outsource the task of building their app for booking black-and-yellow taxis to an agency with expertise in the area. File pic for representation
Taxi unions have, time and again, raised the pitch against mobile-app aggregation services like Uber and Ola Cabs, accusing them of stealing their customers. But it wasn’t just the customers who were making the switch. “We realised that nearly 1,000 of our drivers and permit holders have flocked to mobile aggregator companies,” Quadros added.
There are around 36,000 black-and-yellow taxis plying in the city and around 4,000-Cool Cabs. Should the unions get the mobile app right, and should the government take interest in the idea, it will surely benefit Mumbaikars. “The government should promote the idea of having a mobile app in all kinds of taxis, and then monitor them properly.
It can work wonders. This will increase the chances of getting cabs and refusals, too, will come down,” said Ashok Datar, a transport expert. “Considering the number of black-and-yellow taxis, it would be interesting to see how they manage. They aren’t tech savvy like the current mobile aggregators,” said Rishi Aggarwal, transport expert and environmentalist.
Sources in Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) also agreed that this app for the kaali-peelis would offer a spectrum of choices to people and the waiting time for them would come down. The union members stated that fares would remain the same, but they would train their drivers to use the mobile app; members said they would outsource the task of building the app to agencies that have expertise in creating them.
“We will ensure that sufficient training is given to the drivers to use this system. There are several issues that need to be streamlined presently,” said a member of the Mumbai Taximen’s Union. The base fare for a black-and-yellow taxi (non-AC) is Rs 22.
Uber and Ola Cabs have three bands of tariffs, depending on the type of car available. Shailesh Sawlani, GM, Uber India, said, “The number of our cabs has surely increased. This is evident as the expected time of arrival has drastically gone down to 5-7 minutes and we intend to reduce (time of arrival) further.”
Rise of the app
The popularity of the mobile aggregators can be attributed to the ease of usage both for the user and the driver. As per the Transport department rules, any vehicle with a tourist vehicle permit can ply for a mobile aggregator. Data shows that the number of tourist taxis in the city has risen considerably.
As per the registrations seen in the three RTOs (Andheri, Tardeo, Wadala), 18,400 tourist taxis were registered in the financial year 2014-15, as compared to 13,752 in the year 2013-14. RTO sources said that since these mobile aggregators are presently under the scope of a tourist taxi, many vehicles with tourist permits have tied up with the aggregators and drivers operate as per their convenience.
The mobile app for the black-and-yellow cabs still needs to clear several policy hurdles. The state Transport department is working on the draft Maharashtra Transport Act, 2015, to bring cab aggregators under the purview of the Transport department; there are currently no provisions in the Centre’s Motor Vehicles Act for these services. If the Act does materialise, Maharashtra will be the first state in the country to have a Transport Act of its own.
How the app will work
>> Download the app
>> Create an account and e-wallet
>> Maintain a minimum balance in the e-wallet
>> Key in your location and the destination you want to go to
>> App will display available cabs, along with contact details of the driver, type of vehicle etc
Number of black-and-yellow taxis operating in the city