KARACHI: The recent decision of Uber, a ride-hailing service, to move Cultus (excluding the 2017 model) from Go to Mini category has irked thousands of drivers across the country who claim they have been hit hard financially.
Last week, drivers were informed via a message that the company was moving all Cultus vehicles — barring the models launched in 2017 and onwards — from Go category to Mini due to various reasons.
Talking to Dawn, many Uber riding partners — the company’s term for its drivers — said that they were shocked by this decision.
Muhammad Ismail, a 61-year-old retiree, says he has completed over 3,000 rides in 14 months. “I made decent money however, since last week I have seen my earnings drop.”
“I was making Rs1,600 even on slow days but now the maximum I am making is Rs900.”
The minimum distance I have to cover before I get a Mini ride is at least 5-6km while on Go, I usually had rides within a radius of 3km which means more fuel consumption,” he complained while calling Uber’s decision “unjustified”. Since receiving the notification last week, he says he has visited the Uber office but didn’t receive any response.
Meanwhile, Uber spokesman said that based on customer feedback, the company wanted to make Mini product sizable enough to serve its customer base. Not sharing any specific reasons for the downgrade, he added that only ‘few vehicle types have been shifted to Mini on the basis of what the riders value most in which product.’
Uber website shows cars that fall in the Go category must be air-conditioned sedans of 2001 model onwards. Till the filing of this report, the company’s website lists Cultus in Go category.
Many drivers reached out by Dawn shared similar stories. Those worst hit are mostly young students who drive Uber (given the flexi timings) to support their families while completing their degrees. When asked if the company might have taken this action following complaints from riders that Go drivers were reluctant or simply refused to turn up the air, they opined that those who were not following guidelines should be penalised.
When reached, the company did not share the exact number of vehicles and drivers registered with it. A September, 2018 media report notes the company has created over 100,000 flexible economic opportunities.
According to sources, there are at least 10,000 vehicles of the said model/brand registered with Uber all over Pakistan, with some 3,000 in Karachi alone.
Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2019