The customer’s convenience matters the most to us and it has a direct correlation with the number of taxis on road. We have launched Nano for the same and if the supply is not ramped up, then we will not shy away from including the autos as well.
This is what Aprameya Radhakrishna, Co-founder and Director, TaxiForSure said on Dec 4th when TaxiForSure(TFS) launched their fleet of 100 Nano taxis in Bangalore. True to his words, exactly one month and twelve days later, the much anticipated announcement of 'TaxiForSure autos' took place today. The company has launched the auto-service in Bangalore with 500 autos and consumers can book the same with a convenience fee of Rs 10 over and above the meter fare (similar to Ola Auto).
Though this initiative from TFS seems a me-too step by the company (Ola auto was launched a couple of months ago) heading towards a possible cannibalization of their own Nano taxi service, there is much more to the real picture. Here's what we could dig about the same:
The third party
TFS launched the auto service in association with Three Wheels United(TWU), a Bangalore-based social enterprise that focuses on economic and social development of drivers, building a network of trusted auto-rickshaw drivers through community-building partners, providing affordable loans, creating additional revenue streams and encourage them to use clean technology (by migrating them from 2-stroke to 4-stroke autos). Their package is branded as 'Namma Auto'.
Both TFS and TWU are collaborating to work out the increase in driver earnings, lowering his running costs, and getting him consistent business. While TaxiForSure is taking care of the operational aspect, Three Wheels United is responsible for the capital expenditure which includes financial support (loans) for buying the autos. Unlike taxis, where TFS provides the devices, here the device has to be purchased by the auto driver (which is a part of TWU financial support).
The convenience fees of Rs 10 will be split between the two companies to meet their expenses on the initiative.
The ride of an auto driver
For the convenience of auto drivers, the TFS app will be multilingual, supporting English, Hindi and Kannada. Raghunandan G, Co-founder and CEO, TaxiForSure mentioned that the incentives for the auto drivers would not necessarily be monetary and focus will be to get them more rides instead. He added,
It's a mere perception and not the reality that the bonus benefits the driver more than more number of trips.
These autos will be exclusively working with TaxiForSure and can be booked only via their app.
Autos are safer. At least legally!
Unlike operating taxis in Indian states, operating autos do not require TFS to apply for a separate licence (and register as an auto operator), so legally it's hassle-free for the company to go ahead with their plan. Aprameya spoke about the current legal status of the company,
The taxi aggregators are in touch with the governments of all the states (in which TFS is operating). But, since our business model is relatively new, the government is evaluating and taking time to understand the same. We have all the documents in place to apply for the city taxi operator's licence and will go ahead with it if required.
To further strengthen their security (in vehicles), TFS has finished installing panic buttons in 95% of their cabs.
So, what happens to Nano?
Both the co-founders assured that launch of auto service will not cannibalize their Nano taxi as there is much more demand than the supply. Raghu said,
There are hardly any Nano taxis available in peak hours and the autos have been launched to reduce that demand-supply gap. There's no way one threatens the other, even when they operate with almost same pricing.
He further mentioned that TFS plans to add more Nano taxis in their fleet soon.
All in all, though the Rs 10 convenience fee might be the only common factor between Ola and TFS autos. There operating models seem to be different. TaxiForSure even claimed that their conversation with Three Wheels United started much earlier than the launch of Ola Autos and it was on cards for some time.
TFS is planning to launch their autos in other cities in the next 2-3 weeks. Though there was no hint given, Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai are likely to be the ones on the radar. As someone who has found it not very easy to convince auto drivers to go by meter, with Ola and TFS entering the auto market, I'm hopeful about two things in the least-
a) I'll be able to find autos drivers who are more polite and well-mannered (assuming they're being trained on that aspect), and
b) I wouldn't have to face the issue of 'refusal to hire' by auto drivers.
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