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Friday, April 22, 2016

Fast Track Call Taxi vs Ola Cabs experience

For years, I have been using traditional taxi service such as Fast Track. I didn't use Ola and Uber much during their early days because of following reasons
  • I always preferred self-drive cars when I wanted to drive around in town instead of renting cars
  • My primary need for taxi was mainly for airport transfer. Ola back then didn’t have “Ride Later” option- it was only instant hailing which meant at 3 AM I had to take a chance for their availability. I could book a Fast Track cab previous day and it would arrive on time. 
  • Fast Track never let me down even once while I kept reading several status update claiming delayed Ola/Uber cab caused someone to miss their flight. 
  • Fast Track’s rates were pretty expensive- Rs 16 to Rs 18 per km, almost twice that of Ola, but they didn’t have any concept of surge pricing, per minute charge etc, so the fares were straight forward to calculate and services reliable. They always arrived on time and I could reach Airport on time, each time, every time. Whereas there were social media updates where people missed their flight due to late arrival of Uber/Ola/Meru cabs.
I did try Uber couple of times-read my older posts here- My thoughts on Uber * My Uber Ride experience. These were two years ago- I was probably upset that I never got those Mercedes or BMW that Uber claimed to have in its fleet. I continued hiring from Fast Track. But then, despite severe competition from Ola and Uber, Fast Track hasn’t shown any inclination to reduce fares a bit. They still charge Rs 16 per km. Since I had the potential to save as much as 40-50%, recently I started experimenting with Ola again.

So far it has been good. Ola has Ola Share, Ola Auto, Ola money and such innovative features (Ola bike in some cities) for customer convenience and cost saving, which are good. While fast track has launched its app which looks like copy of Ola but in yellow, it needs more innovative ideation and more competitive pricing to retain customer base.

Some of my experiences so far:
  1. Last month, a fast track driver, after picking me up, said “Sir I will mark this ride as cancelled, so that my next ride will be allotted quickly, else I might have to wait for another 3-4 hours for next booking.. Please cooperate”. 
  2. On the other hand, Ola drivers seem to be earning between Rs 2000-3000 a day on an average. They have mastered the ways to outsmart the system and process and have developed an understanding of what kind of rides are more beneficial to them and how to exploit loopholes to get more bookings and make more money. 
  3. One Ola taxi driver almost scolded me for selecting a drop off point 1 km away from main road. He wanted me to get off on the main road and walk the remaining distance so that he can get his next booking instantly. 
  4. Another Ola driver didn’t mind taking a toll road (at his own expense), as it would have saved him 10 minutes and could land another booking quicker. 
  5. One more driver marked my ride as completed, 5-10 minutes before reaching drop off point, so that he is very likely to get assigned next booking in the meanwhile and won’t have to wait after dropping me off.
  6. While heading to city from Cochin airport, late in the night, Ola driver was driving driving super slow at 50 kmph or so, while roads were empty and he could have safely driven at 80-90 kmph. More than twice I suggested he can go a bit faster. My guess is that being last ride of the day, he is probably trying to earn more of per minute charge.
  7. Respect for taxi drivers: Because the drivers are believed to be earning 60-70k upwards per month these days, which is more than most of middle class office goer makes, taxi drivers are getting good respect. Customers who earlier wouldn't have talked to driver much are now engaging in a conversation with them, eventually bringing out the topic "how much do you make in a day!"
  8. Ola and Uber keen launching various promo codes, discounts and offers- it is good but at times get too complicated to keep track of these offers and use them smartly. Will be good if discounts are applied automatically based on eligibility.
  9. There were few instances of me being charged twice for toll while I paid in cash- on complaint this was reversed by Ola.
  10. Ola Money-very nice feature, but has following limitations
    1. Once money is put into Ola Money there is Absolutely NO way to recover it back to your bank account or credit card account. It has to be spent on OLA services
    2. Never got that 5% off on Ola Money- on using stated codes like OMSAVE etc.
    3. No confirmation from customers is sought before deducting amount from Ola Money. When I booked an Ola share, once driver marked the ride as 'picked up', without arriving and instantly money is gone from my account. I had to register complaint and wait for it to be reversed
    4. If money exists then NO way to OPT out of paying by Ola Money. I can't say "For this booking don't use Ola Money or Take 39 Rs from Ola Money and I will pay Rs 100 cash"

Of course, Ola has lots of investor money and can afford to run for sometime without making profits, while fast track is doing its business pretty traditional way. As a customer, would you go by sentiments and pay more or take advantage of the situation and save some money? I guess we all would prefer the later.

Ola Share
I tried Ola Share several times and it works very well. Most of the time it was me alone in the entire cab but got to save about half the normal fare and there is no time based charge or toll charges. There were a few instances where cab availability showed “1 min” but upon confirmation, showed 8 to 10 minutes. In one instance I got annoyed and cancelled the ride citing driver delay. 30 minutes later driver calls me and quips “I lost my incentive because you cancelled the ride

Should try Uber again to find out what is latest there. What has been your experience with Ola, Uber and other taxi services? Do comment.

Read this post for my views on Surge Pricing *

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