Taxi and auto rickshaws across major Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Kochi — have been busy striking work over the last few months. Their bete noire, cab aggregators like Ola and Uber, have been eating into their business by offering cheaper rides, they say. And what has been irking the traditional cab drivers is the fact that these ride-share startups aren’t under government control. Cab aggregators currently don’t follow any cap on minimum and maximum fares and they aren’t regulated under the Motor Vehicle Act. While different state governments have promised them that app-assisted cab aggregators will be better regulated, kaali-peelis (black-and-yellow cabs) have taken things into their hands. At least in Mumbai, which has over 40,000 kaali peelis, they aren’t sitting tight. According to some media reports , ‘kaali peelis’ have decided to cut their fares by 20 percent for rides that cost more than Rs 200. However, this facility is available in certain parts of Mumbai (Bandra East and West, and BKC) and these kaali-peelis can be booked through a call centre number. While this is a proactive move from the traditional cabbies, fleet cab operator Meru most recently announced a Rs 6 drop from the government mandated minimum fare of Rs 22. To stick it further to cab aggregators who charge customers higher fares at peak hours — Meru launched a brand campaign True Rs per Km . This campain’s cheeky aim was to educate customers on issues like surged pricing, ride time and cancellation charges. However, Ola and its American rival Uber have nothing to lose. With more firepower, cash in their coffers, they have managed to hold on to their value proposition: offer cheap rides. Uber recently decided to sell its China operations to rival Didi Chuxing. It has freed up Uber’s time. It can focus better on markets like India where it operates in only 27 cities. The company came out with ‘Mi Pan Malak’ scheme – under this when a driver partners with Uber, he or she can purchase the car. Uber says the drivers who are currently paying Rs 600 to rent out a cab can become proud owners. All it takes is a downpayment of Rs 25,000 from the driver. According to Uber’s statement, it has managed to partner almost 30 percent ex-taxi, auto and radio taxi drivers in Mumbai where this scheme is in effect. Ola is no pushover, either. With a greater market share than Uber, Ola has steadily increased its offerings , too. It is a question of livelihood for the traditional cab services, who have their backs to the wall. If the state governments are slow in reacting, they will have no choice but to come up with their own stopgap solutions.
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