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Ola, Uber have crushed us: Auto drivers

Sreejani Bhattachayya

Autos waiting in front of Mysuru Road metro station.

For the past few years, autorickshaw drivers in Bengaluru have seen their monopoly melt away. Commuters have taken to app-based transport services Uber and Ola, preferring a convenient mode of travel to one where they had to haggle over fare.

The autorickshaw drivers are cut up, saying they find it difficult to survive the tough competition.

Sheshagiri Deshmukh Nagaraj, an autorickshaw driver who operates in Srirampura, informed The Observer: “I was attached to Ola for some time last year. I could not handle the intense pressure and rude behavior of customers. I have been driving autos for 25 years. Working in a corporate environment did not work for me. My income has gone down after I left Ola, but what can I do? I have a family to look after. I cannot drive for 24 hours.”

Raghuvalu K, who operates in the Mantri Square area, said:  “Our biggest problem is the intense competition we face. They have the technology, proper management systems, and better pay scale; we have nothing. How can we compete with such big companies?”

Travellers have a different story. Autorickshaw drivers behave rudely, ask them for extra money, and refuse to go to their requested destinations.

Allister Sequiera, 26, who uses Ola for most of his travel needs, said: “I don’t have to haggle over fare, and I don’t have to always pay cash. The vehicle comes to pick me up; I don’t have to chase it like I would chase an auto. The rides are comfortable and safer. All this at 10-20% more than auto fare. Sometimes the price is the same. Then why should I leave the luxury of a cab and board an auto?”

Some commuters The Observer spoke to complained they have been harassed by autorickshaw drivers. Vishal Jaiswal, who hired an autoricksaw at HSR Layout with his brother, said:  “When we asked the driver to go a little farther than the place we had mentioned earlier, he started shouting at us. He did not go there and we had to get off. That day we decided to switch to Ola.”

KP Lokesh, an autorickshaw driver who operates from the Mysuru Road Metro station, said: “Two years ago, the situation was not like this. Ola and Uber drivers get many incentives which we don’t. There are no rules to regulate how many such cabs and autos should operate. Uniform rates are not charged. People naturally shift to cheaper and more comfortable modes of transport. Our livelihoods are at stake. My income has dropped by 30%.”

Ola has a 4.1 rating on Google Play Store with 50 million downloads. Uber, an international company, has a rating of 4.3 with 100 million downloads.