WITH the advent of ride-sharing applications in Karachi, going from one place to another has become luxurious. People earlier termed their arrival as a godsend but with the passage of time they have become less and less affordable. During Eidul Fitr when people wanted to go out and meet relatives or travel to amusement parks or cinemas etc, these app-based taxis peaked and peaked beyond the means of the common man.
For more than a week after Eid, they kept charging their customers through the ‘peak factor’ when in fact there was no need to. People who had let go of their drivers either rehired them or thought of doing so, because the peak factor of the two leading app-based ride-hailing services was either always on, or peaked whenever the need arose. For a person who would have travelled from place a to place b for, say Rs150, the same trip now cost over Rs300 and sometimes even beyond Rs450!
All that the customers could do was lodge a complaint at the complaint centre where they were told that most of the drivers were either busy or on vacations. Whatever the reason, these seemed to be odd explanations especially when there was such high demand for the services. Former cricket captain Wasim Akram slashed the prices when he was appointed CEO of one of the two leading companies for a day, but that seems like eons ago.
These app-based cabs are quickly turning into their predecessors, the yellow cabs that came up with an electronic meter two decades back but now roam around the city as private cars. They might also join the ranks of CNG rickshaws that always have a meter that’s on the blink, be it in any part of the city.
Karachi doesn’t have a proper transport system and while the two leading app-based ride-sharing services did offer some relief to the people for a few days, their end may indeed be near unless they improve their game. They should realise that once this city was ruled by black taxis, however, these dinosaurs are today hardly seen on Karachi’s roads.
Other app-based services, including an all-female set-up, are making a name for themselves by being less costly compared to ones who always seem to have the peak factor on and might give them tough competition in coming days. Even the drivers associated with the leading companies feel that they don’t get their due, prompting them to either shift to other companies, go back to their old jobs or simply try to con the clients by not showing up and/or cancelling the ride. There have been cases where the drivers have asked the customer to cancel the ride but only after hearing about the destination, which might be far from their final abode.
The city needs a solution for commuters but instead, it seems the woes of Karachi’s travelling public are far from over, and the ride-sharing services appeared to be too good to be true.
Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2017