If app-based autorickshaws have come as a boon to commuters in the city, it has also led to a sharp divide between the autorickshaw drivers who opt for them and those who do not.
Autorickshaw union leaders say app-enablers approaching individual drivers directly has dented the “unity of the drivers”.
Ola and Autowale.in are the two major app-based auto services currently operating in the city, which has a total of around 40,000 autorickshaw permits. While there are 4,000 autorickshaws affiliated with Ola, Autowale.in, which was the first mover in the segment, has more than 2,000.
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Though auto union leaders are worried about their unity, both companies say joining them increases an auto driver’s income and so their membership numbers are increasing by the day.
Anand Subramaniam, director of marketing communications with Ola, says their drivers are given cards and ATM pins where their earnings are loaded. “These cards are like gift cards that can be used as debit cards for shopping or for withdrawing money,” he says, adding that drivers are also able to keep track of their trips and earnings through mobile-based applications. A special helpline is also operated by the company for drivers, he says.
Mukesh Jha, CEO and co-founder of autowale.in, says his company has special revenue models for the autorickshaw drivers, which allow the drivers to plan their day. “Due to increased visibility, drivers get to see a substantial rise in their revenues,” he says, adding that they also issue revenue certificates to the drivers which can be used to seek loans from lending institutions.
Both Subramaniam and Jha say they depend more on word of mouth publicity for bringing more autorickshaws on board.
While Jha says they have good relations with the rickshaw unions, Subramaniam says they prefer working with individual drivers. Apart from increased income for the drivers, both claim it cuts down dead time for the drivers in the long run. However, a substantial number of auto-drivers still remain skeptical.
Vijay Shinde (45), who has been plying his autorickshaw in the city for the last 10 years, says app-based services might not be reliable for them. “A few days ago, some one approached us for joining one such company, but I refused. In normal business, we get the money immediately from customers. In such platforms, the money is credited to a card. I am wary about such transaction,” he said.
On the other hand, Ranjit Shinde (36), another autorickshaw driver, says joining an app-based service has helped him increase his income.
Nitin Pawar, convenor of the Rickshaw Panchayat, the largest of such unions in the city, says they are dissuading autorickshaw drivers from joining such services.
“A few years ago, another company had tried such a business, but failed. We ask auto drivers to be extremely careful,” Pawar says, adding that it seems these companies are trying to break the unity among drivers since they have been opposing introduction of taxi cabs.