Bengaluru auto drivers have a love-hate relationship with ride-hailing apps

an auto driver
Auto driver at night. Pic: Ekta Sawant

For the past 22 years, Krishnamurthy, an auto driver in Bengaluru, traces passengers through ride-hailing apps like Ola and Uber only on his way back home at night. To find passengers going in the same direction.

Other times, he is able to find customers around the malls where he usually works without using apps. His main complaint is about the commission charged by the apps, but he says that customers trust the apps more, even when their charges are higher.

For example, on the app, it shows that the fee for a particular 1 km journey was Rs 90. “If a customer came directly to me, I would have asked for Rs 45,” says Krishnamurthy. “But they will then question why the amount is so high. But if the app says Rs 90 for just one km, they pay because they believe the app can’t be wrong.

Krishnamurthy is not the only voice against ride-hailing apps. Generally, most auto drivers use apps in the morning. But many people use it part time only. They say that they are able to find customers without apps, but that apps are profitable at certain times.

Their main complaints are the commissions charged by apps, the lack of payment for extra trips to pick up a customer, and what they see as a growing distrust of customers towards drivers.

Raju, who has been an auto driver for over 20 years and has few regular customers, also uses apps only part-time. Says Raju, “I recently started using Ola part-time as I felt it would improve my business. “But the number of customers is the same with or without the app. I prefer to find customers directly as the app takes commission. ,

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Basit Ahmed, who works in Koramangala and regularly relies on apps, explains why commissions are a problem. Basit says, “The app may charge the customer more, but I only get the meter fare. “But if I find a customer directly for a long journey, I can ask for some extra money. With apps, this is not possible. Also, with apps, I don’t get paid for the initial visit required to pick up the customer.”

Considering the paucity of payment for customer pickup, drivers like HM Ravi accept customers only when they are within a short distance of 100-200 metres.

auto in a line in bangalore
Caught between moneylenders, police and commuters, Bengaluru auto drivers find themselves in trouble. photo: Lucy Baker

According to Basit’s brother Hashmat Ahmed, who uses Ola part-time, another issue is that 80% of customers use Ola Money. Hashmuth says, “Under Ola Money we get payment after 24 hours, not immediately. “So we won’t have cash for gas, food, etc.” Hashmuth operates around the KR Market, so it usually finds customers who prefer to rent an auto from an auto stand. “Many auto drivers use the app for extra cash or if they don’t have any customers on a particular day,” says Hashmuth. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it turns out frustrating”.

Some drivers we spoke to were happy not using the apps. Those working around markets, hospitals and malls say they find it easier to get customers in any case.

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Customers who use the apps regularly say rates can sometimes be unreasonably high, but prefer them because of the convenience and security. “I should have paid only Rs 30 for 2 km, but on Ola I paid around Rs 100,” says Deepa Vaishnavi VM, a regular user of the ride-hailing app. Yet she prefers apps because the auto arrives at her door, and she can avoid the bargain. “Plus, app-based autos follow a certain route and are tracked, so they are safer.”

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But Deepa tries to hire an auto directly on the busy road. “So the problem is you might have to ask 3-4 drivers” [to find someone who is willing go by meter rate],” she says. “In the evenings, I look for an auto with the registration number of South Bengaluru (where my home is), and it always works. Even if the driver charges Rs 50 extra, it doesn’t matter Because I know Ola will charge a lot at that time.


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Another regular auto user Anjana Sudev also says that the rates on apps can be quite high during heavy traffic or rain. “If I’m out, I compare the price on the app to what drivers on the road say, and choose whichever is lower,” says Anjana. However, her preference is to use apps. “With apps, drivers know exactly where to drop me off for a pre-set price, with no further negotiations. I’m also able to use app-based autos at night because of the ride-tracking and location-sharing options.” I feel safe.”

Some drivers using the apps are taking full advantage of this. HM Puneet, a driver who uses apps regularly, works from noon to 2 pm. “Women are especially worried about traveling alone late at night, so they book more app-based autos,” says Puneet. “So I get more customers”.

But part-time is the option that many city auto drivers prefer.

[With inputs from Vidya Prakash]

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