BENGALURU: Autorickshaws in the city are facing the heat like never before. Already having lost sizeable ground to app-based cab services, demonetisation came as a body blow with commuters, caught in a cash crunch, ditching the regular autos for app-based services.
Though a number of auto drivers have switched to digital wallets, Ola auto’s recent flat rate offer of `29 for 4 km has left them in the lurch. Ola auto’s rate is now cheaper than the government-fixed auto fare (minimum fare for 1.9 km is `25 and `13 for every km thereafter).
“We are struggling to make ends meet because of the competition from app-based taxis and the promotional offers from Ola autos. Shortage of `100 notes made the situation worse. I may have to shift to driving a cab as auto ridership has come down drastically,” said K Ramegowda, a regular auto driver in Koramangala.
M Manjunath, president of Adarsha Auto and Taxi Drivers Union said, “There is a 40 per cent decline in ridership because of demonetisation. Passengers are hesitant to hire normal autorickshaws because of lack of cash in hand. We are facing problems because of shortage of notes of lower denomination, but now many drivers are switching to digital wallets”.
However, some auto drivers say the response to digital wallets is not encouraging. “A majority of my customers are common people who are not tech-savvy to use digital wallets or mobile applications. Those who are familiar with apps and digital wallets are either booking cabs or Ola auto,” said M Prasanna, another auto driver.
Many passengers say regular autorickshaw drivers often fleece customers. “Auto drivers are losing customers because of their attitude. Most of them in the city are not ready to engage the fare meter and are charging double the government-fixed rate,” said K Swathi, a regular passenger. “App-based taxis and autos are hassle-free and more comfortable” she added.
Ola is the sole app-based auto service in the city. Several app-based autorickshaw aggregators including Uber Auto, Jugnoo, mGaadi, Autowale and Automate have stopped operations in Bengaluru. The number of taxis in the city might soon surpass the number of autorickshaws. Transport Department records show that the city has 1.7 lakh autorickshaws and 1.26 lakh taxis.