On New Year's Eve, revellers are ready to throw caution to the wind as they let their hair down. The alleged rape of a finance executive in an Uber taxi in New Delhi on the night of December 5 that opened a Pandora's box of lax security and seemingly endless hurdles of regulations, has not detered revellers from booking the services of taxi aggregators for the journey home after a late night party on December 31. "The incident that happened in Delhi was unfortunate, but I still think that app-based cabs are a favourite among Delhi commuters," said media professional Runjhun Sharma, who lives in the national capital and is a regular user of taxi aggregation services. "In the initial days following the incident, I had become a little sceptical. But I have been using these services in the recent days and thankfully have not faced any trouble. I am going to party in Noida on the evening of December 31, and plan to book a cab on the app to go back home." Among others, TaxiForSure has seen a "spike across the country" during the ongoing party season, while car rental service provider Carzonrent has seen a 25-100 per cent in surge in demand across the several categories it functions in. "With the holiday season in full swing, the demand for our services has seen a spike across the country," said Aprameya R, co-founder and director of TaxiForSure. "As for New Year's Eve we have observed that people prefer to be driven home from their parties and outings, and we are happy to offer our services and bring a cab ride to them." Several web-based taxi services providers had come under the regulatory radar after a driver allegedly raped a commuter in an Uber taxi. The incident had triggered bans on these services across several cities. Most cities across India had tightened their noose around these service providers and asked them to register with the state and adher to all the rules applicable to city taxis. Most recently, on Monday, the Delhi Transport Authority amended and notified the Radio Taxi Scheme, 2006, paving the way for taxi service providers such as Uber, Ola Cabs and TaxiForSure to return to the roads of the national capital. The amended regulation has allowed not only fleet owners but also aggregators to get licences.
The minimum fleet size of 500 has been reduced to less than half, enabling smaller players to enter the segment. Party spirit assuages late-night taxi worries Taxi providers see surge in bookings during Christmas-New Year time, users still find taxis as the safest option to get home after celebrations
Most taxi aggregators have stepped up security measures in their vehicles to ensure that such incidents are not repeated. Sharma said, that gives her a lot of confidence.
Among other things, several app-based taxi providers have added devices like GPS trackers and panic buttons in their vehicles. Some companies have also strengthened and trained their call centers to deal with emergencies.
As a one if its kinds initiatives, TaxiForSure has upgraded its mobile application to include a new feature where a customer can inform a friend about the taxi and driver's details through an sms, email or WhatsApp message.
"On a normal day we receive around 10,000 calls for EasyCabs but on New Year Eve this increases to almost double the number," says Sakshi Vij, executive director of Carzonrent. "Our reservation process is equipped to identify female guests and identify them as high priority. We make sure that our female guests are made comfortable about their journey through a confirmation call once they sit in the car. A dedicated desk at our call centers tracks the movement of the cab at all times."