Play Store, the Android app market, shows five million downloads; the rating, 4.1 stars. All it takes is a minute for the app to register and, with an ETA of approximately 10 minutes, Ramesh Chaurasia (name changed) is at your doorstep. “Good afternoon,” he says, as he greets you, clad in a crisp white uniform.
The profile on the app matches and you board the white Swift Dzire. He tries to be subtle, but the act doesn’t go unnoticed. Two phones on the dashboard are turned off except the iPhone 4s, which remains on. A beep and Uber Technologies is at your service.
At 3 pm on a Sunday, the roads in Delhi seem barely inhabited. GPS shows traffic at Karol Bagh and the estimated time of reaching the Inderlok Metro station from Savitri as 40 minutes. Only seconds into the drive, Chaurasia’s Nokia phone buzzes. “Haan. Inderlok jaa raha hoon. Sushant Lok pick up hai 8 baje ka. Pitampura Ola se kar loonga 6 pm ko,” he says.
For Chaurasia, who hails from Chapra in Bihar, this is his daily routine. He has been working for Uber for the past three months and with Ola for the last six months. He moonlights for Ola, Meru and Uber.
At 12 pm, he sets out, as ‘Ola’, making his way first to the areas where people prefer to make cash payment. “Sangam Vihar, Okhla, Old Delhi or even Pitampura. Yahan sab cash payment hota hai service ke liye. Jor Bagh, Gurgaon, Sushant Lok aur hotels mein Uber chalta hai,” he says. “Mein Ola bhi hoon, Meru bhi hoon aur Uber bhi hoon. Jis service ka istemal karna hai, bas uss app ko on karo. Baaki off rakho,” he says.
Chaurasia says it doesn’t matter for the companies who he works for. For them reportedly, it’s all about the commission. “Uber retains 20 per cent of the earnings while Ola keeps 15 per cent. Meru retains more,” he says.
But then why does he prefer Uber? Chaurasia blames it on the 3G network in India. “The network doesn’t work everywhere. Most often than not, if due to network problems, the app doesn’t generate the receipt of payment, the customer begins an argument over payment and at 1 am at night, one would rather not mess with them. When we ask our companies to reimburse us, the process is long-drawn.
Sometimes, they don’t even pay us back. Why would I work for them? I have a family of five to support. I would rather choose to work for Uber where the payments are made online,” he says.
He is interrupted by a phone call yet again on his Nokia phone. The voice at the other end says, “He has been arrested”. “Really? Was it a DL registration? He must have been a driver and not the owner. This is what happens. I will never keep a driver.”
There are many cases like these, he says, where although the car owners are registered with the company, they frequently change their drivers, who are not always subjected to the procedural verification.
“All you need is a car to attach yourself with the cab company. And your papers are submitted and you are handed over all the necessary equipment, including the iPhone. But in most cases, the drivers are not the owners. And once a driver is changed, the owner doesn’t inform the company. Even if the company finds out, there is no elaborate verification process. The man is asked to join work immediately. It’s all about the commission,” he says.
He adds, “There are drivers who turn off the apps and their GPS and take longer routes so as to get extra money”. He is quick to cover up. “But I don’t do this. A little less money won’t make a difference. At least your conscience will permit you to get a good night’s sleep.”
The destination arrives and Chaurasia says he is only a phone call away for a cab service. “You needn’t call the company or book now. You can reach me directly,” he says with a salute.