CHENNAI: At the Ola office in Ekkaduthangal, one can see a long queue of people. Peter, an Ola driver, says that the “Rs 80,000 income guarantee” advertisements attract drivers from across the state, but little do they know what they’re in for.
Last week, more than 100 Ola drivers protested at the office and made 20 demands to the company, but with little response, they are planning a bigger protest. “We formed groups on social media and are trying to bring 2,000 drivers together. Authorities have told us to wait till the elections are over,” said Johnson, who is spearheading the protest.
While drivers were satisfied the first few months after Ola was launched, they now complain that business has been going downhill. “Initially, we were asked to make at least three rides, but now it is mandatory that we make 15. Some customers travel 40-50 km, in such cases, how can we manage 15 rides?” asks Mahesh. The drivers get Rs 6,000 as incentive for completing the 15-ride target. “Even if we hit the target by working from 4 am to 11 pm, if we don’t get an average of 4.3-star ratings, we won’t get the incentive,” he adds.
Drivers often don’t know what customers’ complaints are and if they approach the office, they are not given an explanation. “Even if we call the helpline, they claim to not know the reason and tell us to call the Bengaluru headquarters,” Ramanan complains. For a driver, a complaint from a customer could cost a day’s work.
“It may show on the map that we are two minutes away, but the road might be a one-way and the U-turn could be 2-3 km away; or the traffic could delay us. Customers get annoyed and they complain. Our ride then gets cancelled and we have to report to the office immediately and won’t be allowed to work the rest of the day,” avers Krishnan.
While Ola initially only took Rs 4,000 as commission, now 20% is deducted for every ride. “If we manage to get incentive (Rs 6,000), there is first the 20% deduction and then our day’s earning is also reduced,” says another cabbie.
Though it was provided for free at first, drivers now spend Rs 50 every day for data packs on their mobile devices. Cabbies are also not given access to customers’ phone numbers; so they have to call the centre in Bengaluru to contact them. “Our phone balance gets used and Rs 50 a day amounts to a loss of Rs 1,500 a month,” says another driver.
Johnson says Ola provides cars with an EMI option to those who don’t have cars, but that with rates like Rs 6 a km, it is impossible to pay the EMI. “When drivers have an accident, they pay for repairs; the company does not help. We don’t want any incentives or targets. We just want to get paid according to the kilometers, along with a reasonable commission,” he explains.
He adds that the drivers will wait until the elections for Ola to respond, and then go on strike if they are not satisfied. When contacted, Ola officials said that they were considering the demands, but would only respond once the elections are over.
(*all names changed to protect identity)