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Amid Bengaluru gangrape investigation, lens on Rapido: how does the bike taxi company recruit its riders?

As the Bengaluru Police work on issuing a notice to Rapido over hiring a driver with a criminal record, here’s a look at Rapido’s operations, its hiring process and the lapses the police have found in it.

Drivers can sign up for Rapido’s platform through an Android app, where they are required to submit personal details like name, a picture of their face, their driver’s licence, the vehicle registration certificate, and their PAN card. (Express Photo)

A 23-year-old woman from Kerala was allegedly gangraped by two persons, including a driver of bike taxi aggregator Rapido, in Bengaluru on November 25. The Rapido driver had been arrested earlier this year on charges including criminal intimidation and assault, The Indian Express had reported.

As the Bengaluru Police work on issuing a notice to Rapido over hiring a driver with a criminal record, here’s a look at Rapido’s operations, its hiring process and the lapses the police have found in it.

First, how has Rapido reacted to the incident?

A Rapido spokesperson had earlier told The Indian Express that the driver “has been removed from the platform”. “Rapido strongly condemns the action of one of the riders registered on our platform who was booked by the police for assaulting a lady and deeply apologises to the victim who had to undergo such an unfortunate ordeal,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

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“We have extended all help to the police and assisted in apprehending the accused. Rapido will continue to extend its full support to the police… Rapido has a customer-first policy and we wish to stress the fact that their security and safety are of the utmost priority,” the statement said.

Were there lapses in its onboarding process?

The accused hails from Bihar and is settled in Bengaluru, a police officer said, adding that the rider’s criminal record raises questions over the company’s verification process. The accused “has been working with Rapido since 2019”, and was arrested in January over a fight related to a water dispute. However, he had been released on bail within a month, the officer said.

The officer said Rapido had failed to follow the proper procedure in getting the rider on board. “He (the rider) has been working with Rapido since 2019 and was arrested this year by Bengaluru rural district police. It is compulsory for companies to get a No Objection Certificate in such cases, but Rapido blatantly ignored the norm. We are issuing a notice to Rapido.”

So how does Rapido sign up drivers?

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The company claims to be operational in more than 100 cities where it has signed up over 10 lakh drivers. Drivers can sign up for Rapido’s platform through an Android app, where they are required to submit personal details like name, a picture of their face, their driver’s licence, the vehicle registration certificate, and their PAN card. Three drivers on the platform that The Indian Express spoke to said that verification of these documents typically takes 24-48 hours.

The firm’s website is silent on whether it carries out any thorough background checks on the drivers. Queries sent to Rapido asking about their background verification process, and if such a check was done in this driver’s case remained unanswered until publication.

These drivers sign up on the platform as “third-party vehicle operators” and are regarded as independent contractors, according to Rapido’s terms and conditions website. This is a common model in two-way marketplace ride hailing platforms like Ola and Uber. Besides, hiring these drivers as independent contractors and not as employees means that the firms do not have to pay for their social security net.

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How does Rapido deal with the actions of its drivers and passengers?

In its terms of service for both passengers and riders, Rapido says that it is merely a platform to connect the two parties, and that it is not responsible for their behaviour and actions. “The company is not responsible for the behaviour, actions or inactions of drivers of vehicles, captains or quality of vehicle which you may use. Any contract for the provision of a vehicle for the services is exclusively between you and the captain and the company is not a party to the same,” its terms of service for passengers says.

Who are the investors in Rapido?

Rapido is currently valued at over $800 million. It had last raised $180 million in April from the likes of food delivery giant Swiggy, TVS Motor Company, and Shell Ventures, among others. Cred founder Kunal Shah and Yamaha have also previously invested in the start-up.

First published on: 05-12-2022 at 11:19 IST
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