The short-term report, to be released in the first week of every month by SBI, will forecast the state of the economy two months down the line
Uber and Ola offer premium public transport
November ended on a happy note for commuters, thanks to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) rules and deep pockets of foreign financiers. Uber India, the car-hailing service, which was given until the end of November to switch from its one-click credit-card-based payment system, launched a five free-ride offer across 10 cities (up to Rs300) for those who registered for an e-wallet with its partner PayTM.
Olacabs, an equally agile competitor, countered this with its own offer of a 50% discount to those who chose its e-wallet service. Since both ride-sharing services are financed by private equity funds with deep pockets, Indian customers had an opportunity to enjoy the ride while it lasted.
Nobody knows where the intense competition in ride-sharing and fleet cabs is headed; but, at the moment, the middle-class Indian is better off leaving her car at home to get an air-conditioned commute at extremely competitive fares. Media reports suggest that Uber and Olacab’s attempt to switch people to e-wallets has been less than happy. A report on techcrunch.com says that Uber launched a ‘rant’ against RBI regulations which require it to switch to a more secure two-factor authentication system rather than its single-touch credit-card option.
At the same time, it has also requested RBI for 45 days more to comply with its regulations. While RBI should certainly consider Uber’s plea for time, its ‘rant’ seems rather hasty. Its website and app did not make it easy at all to locate the PayTM wallet. Even the PayTM website did not provide an easy link on the homepage to attract attention and ensure easy conversion.
In fact, only determined consumers probably managed to get on to an e-wallet that too, in some cases, many days after it was announced. Given Uber’s aggressive claim that people were reluctant to switch, one wonders if the otherwise smart company, famous as a global innovator, did it deliberately.
If yes, it is rather short-sighted and hasty assessment of the Indian market and Uber may end up losing a sizeable chunk of the thrifty Indian consumer who prefers debit cards or net-banking to credit cards.
While the good days of really low prices may not last for ever, Uber and Olacabs have managed to introduce a much needed, high-end transport system in Indian cities—a need not even acknowledged by public transport organisations.
The efficiency of their app-based system will ensure that more and more private cars get off the road for several good reasons. First, parking is hard to find; second, parking charges have turned very steep; third, it is expensive and difficult to find good chauffeurs.
All we need now is for the government, and our regulators, to understand that each car of the likes of Ola and Uber can take at least four cars off the road and free up precious parking space. It must be recognised as an urban necessity that should be welcomed and supported, rather than harassed and subjected to needless red-tape.
This is one instance when global innovation and enterprise have the potential to resolve some of our transport issues. Of course, some have serious privacy concerns about sharing information with these companies. Data sharing is one area where some restrictions may need to be imposed; but it is an issue that is not limited to car-hailing services.
NOTE: This article was written before the rape incident involving an Uber driver in Delhi.
Moneylife Foundation’s Samir Zaveri Railway Helpline felicitated constable Azim K Shaikh from the Thane police, for preventing a catastrophic accident on 7 November 2014. After spotting a detached iron plate on the track, constable Shaikh, rushed towards an oncoming local train with a red-coloured bag in hand, stopping the train in the nick of time. His alertness averted a major disaster saving hundreds of lives and a massive disruption of railways services at the peak traffic hour.