The Indian taxi market back in 2013 was very similar to some of the roads in the country, full of potholes. Unreasonably high fares, rigging and manipulation of fare meters, cherry-picking of long-distances passengers and blatant refusals of passengers for short-distances by the existing taxi drivers are to name some. All that combined with the rude and arrogant behavior of drivers certainly made the whole taxi service a nuisance. Driver associations and informal groups had been often abusing the collective bargaining strength of drivers and going on strikes to force Transport Regulator to succumb to their unreasonable demands for fare hike and other concessions in traffic offences.
The taxi aggregators, specifically Uber and Ola have been nothing less than a blessing to passengers in terms of the whole taxi hiring experience is concerned. They have impacted driver professionalism and convenience of booking significantly while exponentially hiking the overall satisfaction for the passengers. The market power abuse by taxi drivers has been taken care off by ensuring the availability of the whole array of taxi services on a click on any smartphone.
Uber boasts of 4,00,000 drivers and Ola for 5,50,000, across the country but none of them operates in Goa, thanks to the collective effort of the state’s drivers to keep an app based taxi aggregator service away. The obvious reason cited by the drivers, for the blatant refusal to allow these services operate in the state, is the conception of losing the money that they get to make as of now. Most of them fear that their conditions would turn out to be the same as their counterparts in the rest of the country who have been complaining about the long list of problems faced on the platform of app based taxi aggregators.
While their fear seems justified at first look but analysis of the demographics of the state and a deep dig into the problems of drivers in other states portray a different picture.
The taxi fraternity of Goa perceives that an app based taxi aggregator would allow any individual to get to make his car into a taxi which shall affect the overall share per driver. However, 92% of the drivers on app based aggregators all over India were driving to earn an income before joining a platform economy company. Only 8% shifted to these companies from different professions, too small a number to be worried about the new arrivals into the profession.
Drivers feel they shall work for long hours (that would certainly not go well with a Goan, be it a driver or not) once they shift onto an app based taxi aggregator to make the same amount of money as of now. The argument seems justified unless we actually figure the details into the profession of a driver. As of now the drivers are ‘on duty’ for many hours, although they only earn for the trips that are allotted to them. App based taxi aggregators have significantly reduced the idle time for drivers, the model lets them work when they want to work and makes sure they get the work when they are ready to work. It enables them to exercise freedom within the daily and weekly structures. The efficiency brought by technological innovations in creating a platform that constantly matches demand to supply has allowed drivers to perceive their near and mid-term decisions to work and made sure that the drivers are on the road during times of high demand.
Now comes the most important fear – the fear of losing income. Drivers all over the country have launched massive strikes citing the same reason and that is where this fear has incepted from. Strikes have been very close friends to the driver fraternity since ages, drivers have been going on strikes and protesting long before these app aggregators came anywhere in the world. Is the app based taxi aggregator model responsible for the financial misery of some of the drivers? Not solely! The platform of an app-based taxi service has provided drivers a stable, mid-term period of time to accumulate wealth by ensuring the presence of work every day, which in turn has allowed them to stabilize and take short-term decisions by making large investments in their work, and to bear the risks of flexible working conditions in the short-term with more confidence. It has given the drivers a sense of their money and their expenses, as majority of the transactions are through digital payments, allowing the drivers to easily save in the short-term. There seem to be a sense of autonomy among the OLA and UBER drivers, a sense of stability in income management. It is not just that income must be sufficient but it must also be regular and timely, which the model ensures. Income security takes precedence over other forms of security via unionization and collective bargaining and that explains why the app based model is working and growing among drivers all over the world.