App-based autorickshaw rides to cover last-mile

App-based autorickshaw rides to cover last-mile

App-based autorickshaw rides to cover last-mile

Outside the hyper-competitive app-based taxi space, aggregator models working with autorickshaw drivers have quietly found a thriving market.

In Bengaluru, 45,000 autorickshaws have jumped onto the Ola Auto bandwagon, while other startups are working on similar models. For short-duration last-mile commute, these autorickshaws are now being preferred over taxis that are not always affordable. Working in their favour is the ease of use. They could be booked in exactly the same way as taxis, using the same mobile app.

But are these autorickshaws always reliable when the need is urgent? Christy Thomas, an Ola Auto driver, admitted that declining trips booked through the app was a regular practice. However, he said, such cases have come down thanks to a spike in the penalty amount. The company too had launched a crackdown on such drivers.

In a day, Christy makes about 15 trips. “But there are drivers who do a maximum of 25 trips. It is possible if you start early and end by about 10 pm,” he explained. Intense competition between Ola and Uber had triggered a price war, with rates of car-share services dropping to Rs 29 for four km. To counter those ads splashed across Metro stations, Ola took the autorickshaw route. It now offers Rs 29 per four km, stressing on last-mile connectivity.

Ola had kicked off its autorickshaw services in late 2014, with 5,000 vehicles in five cities. Today, that number has touched 1.2 lakh across 73 cities, a company spokesperson said. To bring more drivers into its network, Ola added support for eight local languages, including Kannada in its driver-side app.

Documents needed
So how does an autorickshaw driver get attached to platforms such as Ola? Documents required are: Driving Licence (DL), Registration Copy (RC), badge, local address and proof of permanent address besides vehicle insurance and permits.

Before the formal attachment, every driver undergoes a KYC (Know Your Customer) verification and initial classroom training. They are trained in language, technology, locations, etiquettes and other commute-related practices before being evaluated. If they pass, they are taken on board.

Safe for women
Safety has been a concern for taxi passengers, particularly women. How safe are autorickshaw rides after dark on the last-mile commute? Ola Auto drivers say more than 60% of their commuters are women, and they do not hesitate to board the vehicle even after 11 pm during weekends.