The taxi journey: From 25 cars to 5,000 gadget-fitted cabs

Published: 27th September 2012 08:30 AM  |   Last Updated: 27th September 2012 08:30 AM   |  A+A-


Today, the cab industry has grown from the traditional black and yellow metered taxis paving way to hi-end technology driven machines.

The journey of taxi cabs in India began somewhere in 1910s as a replacement of horse wagons. The first taxis were the traditional Ambassador and Premier Padmini painted black and yellow to serve the Indians for daily commuting.

These were metered taxis that gradually had spread over to various cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and other major cities of the country. In Bangalore, till 1996, the Black and yellow painted taxis used to run in few numbers. But in 1996, the state government introduced city taxis for promotion of tourism. The trend kept its pace and from the initial 25 taxis which were plying on the streets of Bangalore, the number has today soared to more than 5000 involving mainly the private sector. The further boost came when the IT sector boomed and gave enough option for self-employment for people through cabs which were bound under a contract. The demand has increased with the Bangalore International Airport coming up. The potential has since been exploited in every possible manner.

Spot City Taxi came up as a radio taxi private operator in 1999 with 18 taxis and today has a fleet strength of 260 taxis. In the year 2000, Carzonrent came up with a complete bouquet of end-to-end long and short term car rental solutions through its fleet of 5000 cars across the country. A brainchild of Rajiv K. Vij, it gave form and structure to the unorganised Indian personal ground transportation industry and helping the industry get its due recognition. Their brand was Easy Cabs which has a huge coverage in the city. VijayaNagara City Taxi was established in the year 2000, by Ravi Kumar, with the sole purpose of providing world class service at reasonable rates. It was a initiative taken by the taxi diver’s union.

But the success that was being calculated by many players using high-end methods was actually shown by Neeraj Gupta through Meru Cabs. First launched in Mumbai in April 2007, Meru Cabs has grown exponentially terms of fleet size and geographical presence. It has about 1200 cabs in the city.Come 2011, and many cabs which were using technology along with their service, kept adding up improving their offering. A concept came from two IIM-Ahemdabad alumnae,, which started operation in June 2011 in the city. The aim of the venture was to work with various taxi operators and enable them with technology to ensure that customers get an easily accessible, safe, reliable taxi ride for sure. The venture is an attempt to make it easier for anyone who needs a taxi on time.

“We believe that a consumer deserves a better way to choose from the vast available taxi options and do not need to call two or three operators with just a small hope of getting the right taxi when they need one. We play the role of an aggregator, a company that negotiates the purchase of public-utility services on behalf of a group of customers but does not sell the services. We do not own any fleet,” said Raghunandan G, founder and director of the startup.

Olacabs also came up last year as an aggregator of car rentals and point-to-point cab services and soon  announced that their quick and simple cab service, enabled through a smartphone tracking app, will be available in Bangalore. Olacabs is claimed to be India’s first smartphone-enabled cab service that helps a customer call for a taxi and track it till it reaches its destination. The smartphone application enables customer to easily point and click on the nearest cab from a map of the city. The app provides users instantaneous confirmation of booking along with necessary details like the name of the cab driver and vehicle number, distance from the user’s location as well as expected time taken to reach the location.

The app also tracks and shows the real time movement of the cab from its location to the location of the customer, on a map.

The Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) also joined the cab frenzy when it became the first airport in the country to have its own taxi services for its passengers. The fleet has a total of 2,000 cars comprising brands such as Toyota Etios, Maruti Dzire and Mahindra Verito. This fleet will be in addition to the existing 550 KSTDC and 800 Meru taxis.

But not everybody is excited. “Today the city cabs are operating at an industry level with each owning 400-500 cabs. Because of their rampant growth, the luxury City taxis are suffering.

There are 45,000 luxury city taxis in the city and all of them have partnered with travel agents or corporate houses where the payment is received after a decided period.

But the city taxis have radio assistance and a ‘use and pay’ format, which has definitely increased competition,” said Radhakrishna Holla, Secretary, Bangalore State Tourist Taxi Owners’ Association.


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