CHENNAI: With app-based auto services becoming the newest addition to the transport system, the State auto unions do not seem to be happy with the way the city is choosing to travel.
Since a hoard of Ola autos are plying in the city and are literally waiting at your beck and call, your regular auto guy at the nearby auto stand is bound to be upset as he stands to lose business.
Manickam, an auto driver operating in Mogappair is of the opinion that such ‘cheap publicity stunts’ will not take Ola a long way. “It will take more than a mobile app to take us over,” he asserts.
But the auto drivers who queue up at the Ola office at Guindy to sign up for their scheme, have a different story to tell.
Kumar D, a local auto driver, says, “We attach our vehicles to Ola because the popularity of the company ensures that we get passengers who pay Rs 10 over and above the meter fare. Also, Ola pays us Rs 30 on every trip, so we get to pocket Rs 40 for each trip, which is incentive enough for us not to fleece passengers.”
Ola’s business model does appear enticing, but auto unions are wary. “Ola’s aim is clear. They want to attract all the auto drivers with lucrative offers and eventually monopolise the business. They want to reach a stage where they want to call the shots and decide the fare structure too. That’s why they’re making such offers, unmindful of the losses they are sure to bear due to these offers,” claims president of CITU-affiliated Auto Drivers Union M S Rajendran.
K Kumar, head of Goodwill Auto Union, says, “It is good if it helps in the progress of auto drivers. But will this change be permanent? In nearly four decades of driving experience, I have never come across such a scheme. If we ask for an extra `10, customers have helpline numbers to which they can complain. But if Ola auto asks, they pay up without asking questions.”
Nandita Mathur, a resident of Nolambur, is of the opinion that what Ola is offering is beneficial. “I don’t mind paying the extra 10 bucks for an auto that plies by meter and picks me up from wherever I am. I know I will end up paying much more if I hail one of these local autos. It’s a relief to not have to haggle with the auto drivers on something that is not legit anyway,” she says.
So, all’s good with Ola autos? Recent kinks have emerged with some auto drivers claiming that they are rethinking their decision of choosing to join the Ola brandwagon.
“I don’t get customers close to where I am. And I can’t start the meter till the customer gets in. By the time I reach the pick up point, I’ve already expended a lot of fuel,” cribs Murugan, an Ola auto driver.
Also, the lack of a ‘waiting charge’ or a ‘peak hour surcharge’ that Ola cabs get, have been causing heartburns.
According to a number of clients, some Ola autos have tried to pull a fast one by starting their meters at the point they receive their booking, instead of doing so at the point where they pick up passengers.
The recent outbursts against the Road Transport and Safety Bill 2014 is also said to be a catalyst in building up the antagonism against app auto services. While Chennai has not yet seen a mobilised protest against Ola autos, agitations have already happened in a number of metropolitan cities like Pune and Bangalore. So, are the Ola autos here for good and will they be able to withstand the union bullies? Only time can tell. (Inputs from Varun B Krishnan)