Over the past 12-15 months, several new ride-hailing apps have mushroomed in India in segments such as cabs, autorickshaw and bike taxis. The emergence of these apps and tackling the competition have become a matter of routine management discussions within incumbent operators Uber and Ola, said people in the know.
New apps such as InDrive, Namma Yatri, Yaary, BluSmart and Rapido (in the cabs segment) are primarily looking to address gaps left by the larger players in terms of customer service and driver-partner satisfaction, these people said. Meanwhile, Uber and Ola have also moved to solve some of those service problems, like driver cancellations and supply retention.
“Larger players are cognisant of the service quality issues that come inherently with a marketplace model…the choice to be asset-light presents itself with the lack of full control over the supply. But that’s the choice firms like Uber and Ola have made…the newer apps may be looking to plug some of those issues, but the question is whether they can scale,” a top executive at one of the large cab aggregators told ET.
California-based InDrive, which operates in more than 40 countries, launched last year in India as a zero-commission offering for drivers. But it has for a few months now been charging a commission from drivers.
Bengaluru-based bike taxi platform Rapido earlier this month announced its entry into cab services taking on Uber and Ola directly in their mainstay category. Rapido also said it would charge zero commission to a limited set of drivers who would onboard the platform.
Uber and Ola did not respond to queries.
“Driver cancellations had become a huge problem area for the cab aggregators last year…now Ola and Uber have moved on addressing some of these issues but that presented a real opportunity for newer entrants,” another Bengaluru-based executive at a ride-hailing platform said.
Last year, Uber introduced a new feature where it would allow drivers to see the destination and the estimated fare of the trip before they accepted a ride to reduce cancellations by drivers after they accepted it.
In May this year, Ola rolled out a new category of cabs called Prime Plus where it offers top-rated drivers and top cars, with a claim that there will be no cancellations.
As new platforms emerge, companies have also started focussing on reducing churn of these drivers to other platforms. Uber announced a rewards programme for its drivers aimed at improving their stickiness to the platform.
“These drivers are gig workers and usually they drive for more than one platform…but with newer platforms announcing zero-commission offerings to onboard drivers…it might become difficult for existing companies to have those drivers on their platforms for as long as before,” a third executive at a ride-hailing firm said.
Last week, ride-hailing platform InDrive said it saw driver registrations on its platform increase by around five times, and the number of trips by more than fourfold during a month-long campaign from November 15 to December 15 to onboard drivers.
The government-backed Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC) has also opened the door for mobility platforms to become aggregators and so far the incumbents are seeing competition in the auto rickshaw category with cab services also starting up.
Here, however, platforms are regional and leveraging their partnerships with unions to onboard drivers. Bengaluru-based Namma Yatri, backed by fintech platform Juspay, and Hyderabad-focussed Yaary are examples of platforms that have been built on ONDC protocols. While Namma Yatri tied up with Bengaluru’s Auto Rickshaw Drivers Union (ARDU), Yaary has tied up with the Hyderabad Auto and Taxi Drivers Union to launch cab and auto rickshaw aggregation.
Yaary has already onboarded more than 20,000 auto and taxi drivers in Hyderabad, and is collaborating with driver associations across other cities to launch similar mobility apps.
While tying up with unions has solved the problem of onboarding drivers for these platforms, the recent rift between Namma Yatri and Bengaluru’s ARDU has brought to light the concerns that such initiatives could face down the road. The union, which is seeking a say in Namma Yatri’s future plans, is expected to launch a WhatsApp-based chatbot feature next month to help users commute to and from metro stations in Bengaluru.