Uber, Ola cabs go off Bengaluru roads as drivers protest dwindling earnings and long work hours

Not moving today.
Not moving today.
Image: AP Photo/ Bikas Das
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Hundreds of cabbies associated with ride-hailing apps Uber and Ola reportedly went off the roads in Bengaluru on Jan. 23, protesting against a slew of issues they face.

Cab-aggregators have faced partial disruption in services since morning, though they are yet to formally assess the impact of the situation, an official from Uber said. There was no word from Ola at the time of publication. However, several commuters stranded in the city took to social media to complain about the lack of cabs.

The drivers in India’s Silicon Valley are demanding better remuneration structures, relief from long work hours, and a cut in the rate of commission payable to the companies.

In fact, the protest began over the weekend, news reports said. The drivers gathered in the city’s Town Hall area on Sunday, seeking intervention by the authorities to ensure that the cab aggregators follow the rules set by the Karnataka state government last year. According to these rules, commissions taken by the two companies from drivers are to be capped.

Drivers typically pay the companies a 10% commission on every ride. However, in the last few months, Uber and Ola have hiked the rates to 30%, leaving little with the drivers.

“For the past several months we have been demanding that Ola and Uber do away with flat rates and other offers which are not benefiting the drivers. Ola expects a driver to work for 20 hours to get an incentive of Rs 6,000,” Harish, a taxi-driver in Bengaluru, told the Bangalore Mirror newspaper. “It is humanly impossible to work for long hours considering the city’s traffic,” Harish added.

In an email response to Quartz, an Uber spokesperson said the company regrets the disruption caused earlier in the day. “We strive to be a mobility option for everyone in Bengaluru and we regret the disruption caused to our rider and driver community by a small group of individuals. We remain committed to serving the city, ensuring driver partners can continue to access a stable income, while giving riders a convenient, reliable option to get around their city.”

India’s ride-hailing market is expected to touch $7 billion by 2020, estimates by SoftBank Group show. However, the lack of rules over pricing and driver remuneration continue to pose a regulatory hurdle for the sector.

Meanwhile, drivers’ agitation isn’t new for the cab aggregation business which now has over half-a-million cars on Indian roads.

To build up a fleet, the companies initially showered the drivers with generous compensation and perks. However, with the number of vehicles growing, drivers’ earnings have dipped.

Services were disrupted in the city of Hyderabad in December as cabbies went off the road, demanding that the aggregators enroll fewer cars to ensure that earnings of the existing drivers aren’t hit.