India Diaries: The Smart Taxi Revolution

I just returned from a quick visit to India – the visit started and ended with a Taxi trip. I make a mention of this because of the stark contrast of my experience in the two trips. At the end of it all I was a happy customer who was witnessing the Smart Taxi revolution that is sweeping across our cities.

Am sure things will change dramatically as the use of IT and Telephony has change the traditional Taxi business – the disruption caused is leaving a deep and lasting impact. Many old-timers are doomed to oblivion – but on the whole it is a positive development and is adding value to the lives of most of the stakeholders.

On stepping out at the Chennai airport, I made my way to the familiar Taxi service to book my trip. Nothing had changed – on paying the standard fare I was given a printed receipt for reference. A local help took hold of my luggage and escorted me to my taxi. I gave him a small tip and was on my way. The taxi driver didn’t speak much but got into a problem in locating the address. We spent over fifteen minutes looking for the right street before reaching my destination. He seemed a bit hassled by the journey and to propitiate him I again gave him a small tip and sent him on his way. So little seemed to have changed and I seemed to be back home.

I was wrong in my assessment as I soon found out from my mother-in-law’s daily routine. She was using a Smart Taxi app to arrange for a daily pick up and drop to her school. It seemed to be a revolution but it made sense on so many fronts – in one move she ended the tyranny one is subjected to by most auto rickshaw fellows in the city, she worked out the numbers and using a shared service it was a cost-effective solution and finally the ease of booking and paying for the Taxi ensured that she was a delighted customer.

I was to eventually discover the advantages when I finally booked the service for a drop to the Airport. I booked my taxi using my local mobile number. A lady promptly took in the details and tried to judge the trip requirements by enquiring about the number of passengers and the amount of luggage I had with me. She took my name and even took my email id for future use. She confirmed the fare terms and said I will receive an SMS confirmation shortly.

Soon enough I received a confirmation of my booking. This was followed up by the details of my driver, Taxi No and expected time of pick up. As I usually observed the taxi turned up before it was due and I was alerted through another SMS. I was given a 15 minute window to start my trip. The trip itself was very pleasant and I had a nice chat with the driver. I ended the trip wherein the finally cost was less than half of what it had cost me when I arrived home. I was impressed further on receiving an SMS with a link that provided me details of my trip. A copy of same had been sent to my email as well. Such a convenient tool for anyone who needs to submit bills to claim the taxi fare. The final sign off saw me being invited to provided feedback on my trip though a quick SMS.

And it is not just customers who are happy – the drivers who are signing up with the Smart Taxi operators too have reason to rejoice. They have worked with the Radio Taxi operators earlier but the absence of smart technology made it a pedestrian service that had high cost overheads. In the current scheme the operator ensures that the Taxi location enables them to reach their pickups without much cost in terms of time or fuel spent. They are quickly informed if there are any changes. The company even provides a free smartphone to ensure that the drivers can adopt to the new methodology. Finally the best benefit was the convenient form of payment – end of day the driver received an electronic fund transfer of his earnings.

No wonder the revolution had run wild and is popular with the customers and the taxi drivers. I have heard that there are having protests by existing players about the new kid on the block. If I am not mistaken, the detractors had better switch sides because the Smart Taxi revolution seems to be an idea whose time has come.

Collection:Digital Vision Vectors Courtesy: Getty Images
Collection:Digital Vision Vectors
Courtesy: Getty Images
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