Thursday, January 04, 2018

January 4, 2017

From The Hindu (on the Ola/Uber drivers strike):
The Ola and Uber taxi drivers unions in their 10-point petition urged the State government to step in and fix minimum fares for different capacity of vehicles, reduction of commission to 7%, additional 25% fare for night rides, removal of star ratings, cancellation of various penalties on drivers, and withdrawal of the car pooling option.
While they're at it, why not ask for, I don't know, free foot massages? "Reduction of commission to 7%" is akin to demanding businesses to operate on a cost-plus model, which, last time I checked, was used only for special cases. Removal of star ratings? Are you kidding me?

While struggling under the yoke of the algorithm is no laughing matter, this is not the way to go about fixing the issue. A better alternative would be to form a cooperative--funded by the drivers--which takes care of the dispatching and trip allocation responsibilities which the likes of Uber and Ola extract their pounds of flesh for. Open source options like Open Street Maps can't hurt either. Add in a blockchain-based solution to ensure fairness of trip allocation and driver/passenger rating, and voila, you have your Next Big Thing (tm).

P.S. The print version of the above article has some additional content about how much these drivers make (about Rs 60,000 gross per month), for some reason this didn't make it to the online version. I think this points to the crux of the problem. Even after deducting for expenses, what's still left is no laughing matter, and is comparable to the starting salary of an average white-collar worker. This was simply not sustainable in the long run from the aggregator's perspective, who has now started turning on the screws (while the Indian context is quite different, check out Hubert Horan's take on this). My guess is that the more severely affected folks are those who opted for buying higher-priced sedans (with the concomitant higher EMIs and fuel costs) as compared to the budget vehicles.