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Bangalore gets humble auto-rickshaws on call as startups join mobile app race

Alongside their cab offerings, both Ola and TaxiForSure are now offering auto-rickshaws on call.

Written by Saritha Rai | Bangalore |
January 19, 2015 1:37:38 am

IT is the battle of the auto-rickshaws in Bangalore. In this public transport-deprived metropolis, leading Indian taxi-hailing app firms TaxiForSure and Ola have commandeered the humble three-wheeler and are now offering auto-rickshaws on call.

India is the only country where cab-hailing apps can be used to summon three-wheeled rides as well.

Street auto-rickshaws are a commuter’s lifeline in India’s technology hub where the public bus service is inadequate and the much-delayed Metro train line covers a tiny stretch in one corner of the city. The three-wheelers are also a bane as wilful drivers can refuse to ply the desired  route or can demand exorbitant fares. A sting operation last year by the city police led to cases against thousands of auto drivers for offences ranging from boorish behaviour to overcharging.

The race between cab-summoning app rivals TaxiForSure and Ola, both Bangalore-based, comes as a godsend for harried commuters. The apps will aggregate and organise a transport segment that is chaotic and unreliable. “Sometimes I sarcastically ask the auto driver, ‘where do you want to go today?’ The apps will ensure that I no longer need to beg drivers to take me to my destination,” said Reshma Jeevath, a lawyer who relies on auto-rickshaws for her daily commute.

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The startups are offering the auto, as the middle-class ride is known in the city, through a click on the mobile app or through online bookings or a call-in number. It is a daring new frontier in their competition even as they go head-to-head in the cab market with global cab-summoning startup, the San Francisco-based Uber. Both start-ups are backed by marquee investors such as Japan’s SoftBank (Ola) and US-headquartered venture capital fund, Accel (TaxiForSure).

Ola was the first off the block and started offering auto-rickshaws through its app last year. This weekend, rival TaxiForSure rolled out “Auto, Mate”, its on-demand auto hailing service. Commuters will pay government-mandated meter fares and a convenience fee of Rs 10 per ride. TaxiForSure has launched with 500 autos and plans to double the number soon.“We are happy to empower auto drivers to enter the aggregation ecosystem with a simple app and work towards elevating their lifestyle,” said Raghunandan G, co-founder and CEO of TaxiForSure.

For the convenience of auto drivers, TaxiForSure will offer multilingual support on its app — in Kannada, Hindi as well as English. As an incentive for reliable service, more rides will be directed at reliable, efficient auto drivers.

Alongside their cab offerings, both Ola and TaxiForSure have been catering to middle-class customers in recent months. TaxiForSure earlier launched the Nano Taxi with the inexpensive Tata Nano cars. In Mumbai, Ola offers the yellow-and-black street taxis, or kaali-peelis as they are called locally.

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