Taxi operators plan app-based service to counter GoaMiles

Abdul Wahab Khan | NT

Panaji: The North Goa Tourist Taxi Owners Association
(NGTTOA), a cab union in the state, is gearing up to launch its own
taxi-hailing app through which users will be able to book cabs to counter
GoaMiles, a new government-run app-based taxi aggregator.

The association is planning to have a fixed fare
structure based on government rates with no surge pricing and no incentives for
drivers on the lines of a traditional cab aggregator and completely
contradictory to the Ola/Uber and GoaMiles model. However, there will be no
option to check the estimated fare on the app.

The association wants to launch the service soon after
their taxis are fitted with the automated tracking device with an integrated
emergency system and fare meter, which has been made mandatory by the High
Court.

Protests by disgruntled taxi drivers over the past few
months against unfair practices, poor earnings, slashed incentives and
operations by a cab aggregator at lower than government approved fares have
forced the association members to think of starting a hailing app with an aim
of protecting the interests of the drivers and their livelihood.

According to the taxi union, GoaMiles offers lower fares
as compared to the government rates – for example from Calangute to Dabolim
airport, the app aggregator charges Rs 960 as against the government rate of Rs
1,200. Similarly from Calangute to Panaji bus stand, the GoaMiles app charges
between Rs 365 to Rs 400 when the government fare is Rs 700. This, the
association members say, has badly affected their business.

In fact, the union-backed app seems to be basing its
strategy on the assumption that local drivers will leave GoaMiles service in
favour of the homegrown service. Presently, there are over 29,000 taxis in the
state of which GoaMiles claims 1,453 cab operators have joined it.

Infighting among the taxi union members, however,
threatens to dampen their ambition to take on GoaMiles because some members are
not in favour of launching the app for reasons best known to them. However, the
association will soon conduct an executive meeting with its members seeking
their response and will try to convince them to support the decision of
launching their own app.

Speaking about the objective behind the initiative, vice
president of NGTTOA Ravindra Vengurlekar told this daily that “the idea is to
remove the misconception among the passengers that taxis are fleecing and to
develop trust with them as well as drivers too enjoy the benefits of app-based
cab bookings. Our focus would be on service and drivers’ interests. GoaMiles
wants to make profits and is not concerned about the drivers’ interests.”

“Most drivers are upset with GoaMiles and they will join
us, as we have driver-oriented policies. And with what GoaMiles in the state
did to drivers, this will be a lesson for the company. We will soon hold a
meeting with our members and convince them about the need for our own app
rather than agitating against GoaMiles,” he said.

The association members have claimed that the union was
approached by a few service providers for technology, customer care,
operations, marketing and other business-related needs but no decision has been
arrived at yet.

The app will not charge a commission like GoaMiles but
instead charge a fixed monthly or annual maintenance fee. Just like other apps,
a passenger will be able to select the category – AC or non-AC – and once a
ride is booked, the passenger will receive a one-time password through SMS. The
taxi drivers in the vicinity will get an alert and whoever accepts the request first
will get to pick the passenger.

Source:: The Navhind Times

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