On the contrary
Sabotage by Regulation
Governments should not meddle with the market created by taxi aggregators
15 Oct, 2015
A few months ago I took taxis through Uber a couple of times in San Francisco, and, technologically, it was a flawless experience. It required me to have zero human contact as the taxi reached where I was in the middle of a busy street downtown and then dropped me off. Not a word had to be exchanged with the driver. After returning to Mumbai, I booked a taxi through Uber and within two minutes got a call from the driver asking for directions, and then after he reached me, I wearily continued supplying the route to him while the mobile phone with the map that is supposed to tell him everything he needs to know idled lazily near him. His skill sets are not alone to blame. There is also the problem that route maps in India can be troublesome, given the uncertainty of broadband speeds or addresses not having any pattern or order to them.
But every driver now aspires to be on Uber or Ola or a taxi aggregation app. My driver told me (since I was now forced to interact) that he was an employee of another man who owned the car. An industry has grown around taxi aggregation and it is not all that bad.
Even if the drivers have a problem reading maps, technology makes them more money, monitors them better and makes it almost impossible to cheat. Otherwise, customers in every city in India know all too well how autos and taxis have held them to ransom.
A government that wants to be on the right side of its people and provide decent public service should actually be looking into things like mapping of cities, training of drivers and increasing competition by removing red tape. Instead, what we are getting is exactly the opposite. The Maharashtra government, for instance, recently announced that it is contemplating a policy that will ‘regulate’ these services, and one of the measures is to cap the number of such taxis at 2,500. An article in Yourstory, the online magazine that tracks the mobile technology space, lists what some other states are doing: ‘Ola and Uber drivers could pretty soon see their licenses getting suspended in Karnataka if they resort to peak-time charges or surge pricing. In Delhi and Tamil Nadu, among other states, taxi aggregators will need to get operators’ license to run their service, and in Kerala the police wants to monitor their fleet-on-the- ground constantly.’
This is government at its power-without- responsibility best. The reason taxi aggregation has become so successful is that a huge vacuum exists for a moderately reliable commuting experience. In the developed world, taxis had become too exorbitant, and in countries like India, where the only regulation is on paper, they held commuters to ransom.
The aggregation business slipped in through a crack in the door because there were no rules foreseen for such an industry. Now that it has got going, the government wants to use regulation to turn it exactly into what it is replacing. It will become an enterprise with licences and agencies breathing down its neck until it is emasculated into nothing.
About The Author
Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai
Surfing the Frontier Tech Wave with Policy Life Vest Divya Singh Rathore
Harman Baweja: Coming of Age Kaveree Bamzai
Jewels in the Crown Rachel Dwyer