Travel travails: Kochi’s favourite Uber taxi faces threat from organised private cab operators

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Uber taxis have almost revolutionized the way Kochiites travel, by providing cheaper, safer and faster service than the conventional taxis. At just Rs7 per km, Uber, which claims itself to be the `cheapest ride in town’, is a great relief to travelers who have to shell out two or three times more for hiring a regular cab. For the new customers, Uber offers two free rides upto to Rs 300 as a promo offer.

Ola, another mobile app-based taxi service, is also in operation in Kochi, but is not as popular as Uber and charges more at Rs10 a km.
US-based Uber expanded its footprint to Kochi in November 2014, after registering its presence in 10 other cities in India. Uber picks you up from any point in the city in a matter of minutes.

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While a private taxi may charge over Rs1,000 to ply from Ernakulam city to Nedumbasseri airport, Uber cab fare comes to just Rs 450. As you get a text message of the fare as soon as you arrive at your destination, there is no way a driver can fleece you.

Uber fares are sometimes even lower than an auto rickshaw! You can ride in royal comfort, as Uber usually offers chauffeur-driven hatchbacks such as Etios Liva, Maruti Ritz, Maruti WagonR and Tata Indica Vista.
With over 500 cabs at its disposal, Uber is posing a major threat to regular taxi drivers, autos and private cab companies in the city due to their 24/7 availability, cheap rates and customer satisfaction. Naturally, regular cab operators are losing substantial business to Uber service. Private taxi operators are also losing a cringe worthy number of drivers to Uber.

Private taxis and cabs now claim `territorial rights’ in some busy places and don’t allow Uber cabs to ply in those areas. There are also reports of Uber drivers being threatened and intimidated by regular taxi operators for foraying into the latter’s exclusive zones.

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The CPM, the main Opposition party in Kerala, has been strongly opposed to the arrival of corporate online cab service providers like Uber and Ola into the state. But the CPM blunted its opposition after the new taxi service became an instant hit with travelers.

The party is now contemplating to launch its own ‘call-taxi’ and ‘call-auto rickshaw’ services in the state. The ‘desi’ call-taxi cabs would provide all high-quality services similar to the corporate groups, ranging from online booking facilities to GPS-enabled vehicles. The party will arrange technical and financial support to conventional taxi drivers to be more professional to compete with the corporate cab companies.
Now, with increasing threat from the organised lobby and the CPM planning a desi version of call-taxi service, the future of Uber hangs in the balance.

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