CHENNAI: In a game of one-upmanship being played out by taxi aggregators on the city roads, the new entrants are apparently cornering public patronage while old timers such as Bharathi and FastTrack are in no mood to relent. Although they were pioneers, launching the service over a decade ago, they now want to have their share of the pie.
The old players are now introducing several measures, such as competitive pricing and mobile applications, in an attempt to restore equilibrium in the competition.
In 2000, Bharathi Call Taxi had just launched service in Chennai, proclaiming itself as the country’s first call taxi. It had its own cars and unlike the present times, preferred to take phone bookings, which they still do. Sitting in a modest second floor office on Mambalam High Road, overlooking the railway track, S Periasamy, Senior Manager, Bharathi, said they currently have around 250 cars and on a average take 1000 phone bookings every day. The decline, he admitted, was due to market developments and technology.
“Customers want to book a cab with a mere touch,” he says. As such, they too were developing a user friendly mobile application, expected to be out this summer. “Once that comes, it would account for over 70 per cent present phone bookings even as new customers come onboard,” he said confidently.
Faced with competitive pricing, it is now rare to find a taxi sporting the logo of home grown companies, say Ravi and Brothers and FriendsTrack. Most of them offer fixed rate. Drivers once attached to these firms are now flocking app-based players, hoping to get more customers and lucrative incentives. However, there have been demonstrations by drivers across the country against exploitative policies of app-based aggregators.
Yet, home grown companies are keeping an eye on the new entrants to work out market strategy. Recently, FastTrack changed its charging policy from metre-based one to a server-based model, wherein customers are informed about an indicative fare before undertaking a trip.
According to C Ambigapathy, Managing Director, this was done to reduce instances of customers getting into disputes with drivers. This apart, FastTrack, which began operations in 2001, is also concentrating on improving its mobile application patronage. Acknowledging that customers prefer cheap rides, Ambigapathy said, “We are going to introduce a fare of `2 per km for customers who book through application. This will be implemented from Pongal.”