In the last few years, the ride hailing market (also known as ride-sharing) services have skyrocketed in Nepal.
inDriver is another foreign-based newly launched app-based ride-hailing and ride-sharing services application in Nepal. It is known for its unique service by allowing the passengers and the drivers to negotiate the ride’s fare independently.
Ride Hailing Market in Nepal; A Profit-Oriented Tech Company or Service-Oriented Company?
This ride-hailing service sounds like a value for money; there’s a tinge of freedom, a feeling of control, and it sounds covertly techie, but- in reality- is it?
While this new surfeit of such options in the ride-hailing market has been a boon to people trying to get around town, there’s a dark side to such services that everybody should understand.
The inDriver company’s PR manager based in India, Ms Pavid Nanda, South Asia PR Manager, has made one thing clear in her interview with TechLekh, she speaks,” like many other ride-hailing apps, inDriver is an IT company and doesn’t see riders and passengers as their employees.”
Hence we have another foreign ride-hailing company with no regard for the passengers’ and riders’ safety and welfare.
Keeping the drivers classified as independent contractors has helped many rider-hailing companies save millions of rupees and millions more for investors.
In an interview, Ms Nanda also boasts about the app popularity saying,” it allows both the passengers and the drivers to take freedom into their own hands.”
But how is that freedom serving the residents (riders and passengers) of the country where the business operates?
It is evident that ride-hailing operators see themselves as just other tech companies, not transportation companies (and therefore not subject to most rules for road-based businesses). Accordingly, the drivers are not workers but customers and are self-employed; hence, they don’t possess any employment rights like any other private employees working in the private sector.
It’s more unfortunate that our outdated government system has failed to figure out how to respond to these new foreign-based business models in favor of their citizens.
Currently, inDriver doesn’t have any physical office and their team is virtually operating from India. Therefore, good customer service and safety are a far cry from expectations. To that, the PR manager responded saying,” It is very common for all IT companies to work virtually for different countries.”
If that’s the case, then on what value does the company stand: as a profit-oriented tech company or service-oriented company?
Although the app mentions how passengers can choose their drivers based on the driver’s ETA (ratings and reviews), bike model or distance, none of this has been implemented.
Let me share some of my experiences while using ride-hailing apps:
The driver called me far from my destination, asked me “to send him the money or else he won’t deliver my parcel because the destination is a bit far from appointed, I assured him to pay extra; then he did the same to the sender; receives money from both the sides; upon reaching out, he doesn’t pick up the call and gets away with no consequences.”
The driver arrives at the destination and then hurriedly responds, “it seems too far; I don’t want to go there.” He says “sorry,” then leaves, while my two years old daughter and I lay roadside in confusion.
You choose a bike for the convenience of yourself and the child and the scooter arrives with no match to the face shown on the app.
When requested to slow down, maintaining the speed, he assures you with a smirk that you’ll be fine.
Surely, we all have good and better experiences with ride-sharing services, but it’s human nature to remember the bad ones.
We all have that one (girl) friend or sister who has been contacted back by the driver only to be harassed by repeated messages and calls. It must have taken a new toll with apps like inDriver, where “customer care” is almost none.
Other authorized apps with good customer care service are known to immediately take action over such complaints, particularly by young women.
Sixit Bhatta, the CEO of Tootle, said there is a monitoring system to discourage and penalize riders for their wrongdoings against the customers. So even though Tootle isn’t known for insuring riders and, at present, is on the brink of closing down, at least in their heydays, they had good responsibility regarding handling customers’ issues.
Pathao were the first to insure passengers and drivers, where insurance covered against accidental loss or damage to a bike or car or to a third party, but that came with zapping 20 per cent of fare as commission from passengers. Still, most of the brunt is suffered by those hard-working riders. Pathao holds more than 60,000 trips daily but is infamously known to respond to customer complaints no better than cable and internet operators in Nepal. We can only imagine revenue collection by Pathao from Kathmandu city alone. Hence, still, lacking proper customer care support and safety is nothing but reckless behavior from one of the best in the business.
In most apps, once the customer gets off the bike with a bad experience, they can give a bad rating on the app. If only they could follow up with both the passenger and rider to investigate the genuineness of ratings. It could help cut out bad riders and irksome passengers with their ratings. Then upon repetition of such ratings, the company can easily follow up immediately and block the riders so that they would not be able to use the app. It is evident that if a rider gets bad ratings frequently, s/he is doing something wrong to the customers and giving the company a bad name.
The penalty in most ride-sharing apps mainly includes revoking permission for using that app. Still, offline service has been omnipresent inside the valley, and there’s no way to control and stop it.
Any ride-hailing app that provides no insurance, no customer care service, and doesn’t care about the issues of drivers and passengers is unsafe and should be avoided. I don’t recommend anyone to be a part of reckless management, where you can save a little bit of money in return for gambling with your life.
In Nepal, especially inside Kathmandu, we already have many ride-sharing services. So we don’t need more ride-hailing companies; we need one that is service and safety oriented and functions with ethics and compliance.
Let’s stop giving tech companies a free ride.
Disclaimer: The author takes full credit and responsibility for the opinions presented in the article. This piece is edited by TechSathi’s editor’s team to improve diction and flow, while keeping the original views intact.