Monday, August 25, 2014

Uber Chennai Taxi Ride Experience

I finally managed to try Uber’s services successfully. I had written my initial thoughts about Uber India here. After that I tried a few times to hail Uber cab, failed twice and got lucky the third time…

Below is what happened on the three occasions

Attempt 1: While returning from Jaisalmer, Aug 4th: 9.20 PM, I book the cab at airport, with pickup location in the app pointed next to Tirusulam railway station. An Innova was assigned to my booking. I didn’t bother calling the driver. ETA kept varying between 8 mins to 33 mins, I waited for 20 mins, cab doesn’t show up and suddenly I get an Uber Invoice for Rs 0, followed by an email from Uber community manager thanking me for using Uber’s services. I had no clue what happened, I gave low rating, shot a short mail and reached home after spending just Rs 26 on public transport (Train+ Bus+share auto).
I was later told that this was a mistake from driver, who clicked “End trip” button instead of sending “Arriving Now” msg, prompting the system to terminate the booking. Uber community manager explained me that they’re taking steps to correct the issue and train the drivers better.

Attempt 2: Two weeks later, while returning from Goa, I tried again. This time also an Innova was assigned, I lose half my interest. Despite having marked my location next to Tirusalam subway, I could see that cab is going inside the airport, traveling around randomly. I got the ‘Arriving Now’ message but cab is nowhere close. I called the driver, he said he couldn’t reach me, so was searching for me randomly inside Airport pickup area. I told him that I am not inside airport area, but on the main road.  He said he will come.

I realized now that the phone number I’d used while signing up for Uber and phone number I have now are different. Because of this driver couldn’t call me. I tried updating my mobile number in the app, but this field was non editable. Probably it is a security measure, while I was under the impression that App is smart enough to figure out the correct contact number. I could update the mobile number later in the website.

I waited for few more minutes, I again got a msg that my booking is complete. This annoyed me, because Uber doesn’t seem to have an option like “Terminated by driver” or “cancelled by Uber” for requests that couldn’t be fulfilled for whatever reason. Why should customer be charged Min fare of Rs 150 for such cases and forced to make another booking for no apparent reason?
I opted to hail a fast track taxi and reach home by spending about Rs 400 (This worked out about Rs 200 cheaper than booking a cab inside airport,  as airport parking fee and other expenses are transferred to the customer.

Attempt 3: Last Friday, booked an Uber ride from Leela Palace till home, a distance of about 12.5 kms. This time I got a Honda City, I promptly called the driver to inform him of my correct number, location etc. Cab arrived within 6-8 minutes, which was super cool. The brand new 2014 Honda city was nice, 12 kms were covered in about 20 mins flat, as it was close to midnight sans much traffic. The bill came to about Rs 340. (My home to Airport, which is 17kms, costs Rs 340- 350 in fast track)

Few observations:
1. Toll had to be paid in cash. This part is not automated
2. Driver drove in a modest speed of 40-50kmph despite empty roads. (Not complaining, just saying)
3. In my 3 attempts I didn’t get lucky to have a high end car like BMW. So it reconfirms my thought that Uber has just a few high end cars for publicity/promotional purpose and most of the fleet are regular cars- Innova, city, corolla etc. This is the reason car type is not shown before booking (say while showing ETA) and probability of getting a BMW/Merc will be very low. (At 18 Rs per km, a BMW owner will take long time to recover his investments)
4. A few phone calls might still be required, since Indian address system is not perfect
5. Fast Track's minimum fare (Rs 100) includes a few free kms, while Uber's base fare includes none.
6. While there're a few promo codes that can be used, I find it a pain to remember the code, type it in during booking etc. Will be nice if the app automatically applies best of the discount possible, without user having to remember, key in the code etc.
7. Three days since the ride, I am still waiting for the transaction to reflect in my credit card statement. Waiting to see if I will incur any extra expense since Uber transactions are routed internationally.

Will I try Uber again? If I am in good mood, Yes. But not super excited about Uber, as I realize that probability of getting high end car is very low and few drawbacks like not able to book in advance, know/specify car type etc might out-weight the convenience.

Once they launch UberX in Chennai I will be more keen to use UberX often- there my expectations are set right and I will be paying less. 

Uber has run into a regulatory issue with RBI accepting competition’s complaint that Uber is not following a 2 step authentication process while accepting automated card payments. Need to see how Uber responds to this and adapts itself.

If you're signing up at, please use my referal code 'uberenidhi'