Kerala govt's Uber-model taxi service to ride on reasonable pricing

By Anand Prince

4 min read
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Kerala Savari, the ambitious online auto-taxi service by Kerala govt, is all set to go. The app-integrated online platform which will work like Uber and Ola, is expected to be launched on November 1. Though Kerala Savari has been spearheaded by Kerala Motor Transport Workers Welfare Fund Board (KMTWWF) under the labour department, the initiative will be instrumentalized by the coordinated efforts of the police department, motor vehicle department, legal metrology department, IT mission and state planning board. Interestingly the Palakkad wing of Indian Telephone Industries (ITI) Limited, a public sector undertaking under the Union government, is in charge of GPS facility, application (software) and call centre operations of Kerala Savari.

According to the Chairman of KMTWWF, Advocate MS Skaria, Kerala Savari is the first of its kind in the world, where a government is running an online auto-taxi service which could integrate taxi, auto rickshaw, tourist vehicles and all other contract carriers in the state meant for road travel under one roof.

"At present we are doing a pilot project by operating 50 taxis and autos. We are expecting that the government will sign the memorandum of understanding soon after going through our proposal. The trials will probably start by mid October and a pilot project will be launched in Thiruvananthapuram city from November 1. Meanwhile, the platform has been developed in such a way that it will be capable of accommodating KSRTC services in the second or third phase of the project. The response for the pilot will decide the future of Kerala Savari. We are planning to expand it across the state," he said.

Why is Kerala Savari an ambitious project?

The uniqueness of Kerala Savari is not limited to the integration of road travel services. The project may even influence the road travel culture and its market model. Some of the major benefits of the platform are the following:

1.Standard rates fixed by government, no surge pricing and other customer friendly features: Unlike the popular ride-hailing services operating in Kerala, the rates will be fixed by government. Similarly, there won't be surge pricing based on peak hour or bad weather. No other charges other than the government approved rates are to be given, which will ensure that customers are not fleeced. There will be an option for both the driver and the person availing the service to cancel the ride within two minutes of booking. This will be managed by call centres. At present, the pickup distance will be limited to 4 to 5 KMs. However, extending the availability of services to remote regions is under consideration. The payments can be done online or in cash. No separate charge will be levied for a pickup distance of 500 m or if the person is booking from the auto-taxi stand itself.

2. Security of both commuters and drivers: All the vehicles in the platform could be tracked through the GPS system. Apart from this there will be a panic button for alerting police which can be used in case of emergencies like accident or assault. Kerala Savari app will have an option to grade both driver and commuter so that chance of misbehavior can be avoided. Grading the driver in turn will be helpful for performance review.

3. Better prospects for drivers/owners: It is important to note that individuals who found big jobs in ride-hailing services fanciful amid Covid-19 realized that they have to fend themselves. Many quit as they were not getting rides to manage through. Similarly, increasing fuel cost and other maintenance charges are troubling many. Compared to driver cum owners, things are more tough for drivers who don't own cars. Most ride-hailing companies get a 30 percent commission charge per ride for providing the platform. Also, all other expenses need to be borne by either the driver cum owner or owner. KMTWWF believes that with the coming of Kerala Savari, such problems can be reduced. By bringing all drivers under one roof, better deals for meeting operational costs can be bargained. This includes bulk purchase of auto-fuels, tyres and spare parts. In future, insurance and standard repair rate in workshops can be attained. The chance of exploitation by the owner too can be avoided if drivers are under KMTWWF. It is expected that Kerala Savari will boost the profit of driver/owner by 25 percent.

Who can register as a driver?

With no gender barriers any driver can register through KMTWWF. Even drivers who are not under KMTWWF can register. However, non-KMTWWF members will not get special benefits allied with KMTWWF membership. At present around 10.5 lakhs members are there in KMTWWF. Meanwhile, KMTWWF is in talks with various auto-taxi unions to imbibe them under a single roof.

What is the business model of Kerala Savari?

The major share of revenue is expected from advertisement in the vehicles. Digital advertisements can be shown in these vehicles. It will be shared between the state government and the ITI which invests money for the platform and other allied services. A proposal to have 60 percent for the government and 40 percent for the ITI has been worked out for sharing the revenue from advertisement. KMTWWF will act as a monitoring body. They are neither investing money nor expecting revenue as KMTWWF is purely into the welfare activities of its members.While coming to the revenue from trips, it is expected for every Rs 100 trip, the driver will earn Rs 92, while Rs 8 will be shared between between the state government(Rs 2) and the ITI(Rs 6).

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