Kolkata's taxi aggregator market is witnessing a lot of action with radio taxi service provider Meru Cabs deciding to tie up with local cabs to gain a foothold in the market dominated by Ola Cabs and Uber. In August this year, Ola Cabs had tied up with the local yellow taxis.
The tie-up could be the first of many for Meru Cabs as the company plans to join hands with smaller cab companies for expansion into 30 additional cities within the next 18 months. Meru Cabs chief executive Sidhhartha Pahwa had earlier said the company would raise up to $100 million (Rs 648.4 crore) by the first quarter of 2016 for this purpose.
Meru, unlike Ola Cabs, has decided to partner with only air-conditioned taxis and not with the normal yellow cabs. The air-conditioned 'no refusal' taxis that are coloured blue-and-white, are a different set of cabs that ply in the city apart from the regular 'black-and-yellow' ones. No refusal cabs are mostly sedans. They follow fares laid down by the state transport department.
Registered taxi drivers are equipped with smartphones that enable them to accept booking requests and navigate to the customer's doorstep through the Meru platform. While fares for the yellow cabs would be in accordance with government-fixed meters, Meru will charge a convenience fee of Rs 20 over the fare displayed on the meter.
"Convenience and connectivity have been key challenges for commuters in Kolkata. By adding the large supply of the city's local taxis to its platform, Meru will enable customers utilise local taxis and travel with ease," said Pahwa. Meru will also undertake training programmes for drivers to improve passenger experience.
Taxi aggregators have been doing brisk business in this city, amid reports of unruly behaviour by drivers of metred taxis here becoming a deterrent for commuters.
Meanwhile, with their existence under threat from app-based taxi services, cab operators' unions have resorted to strikes, to force the government to bring in tighter regulations. Following this, the aggregators have chosen to include local cab operators as partners.
Earlier, Ola had tried to buy peace with the local operators in Mumbai by bringing the traditional black-and-yellow cabs under its network.