How bike taxis are becoming a source of livelihood for India's youth

Sabahat Contractor

Moneycontrol News

Hyperlocal logistics are changing India. Whether it is carrying people or parcels, the industry is now providing employment to thousands.

In the coming years, bike taxis are likely to provide employment for many, with India’s towns becoming crowded with traffic and the need for people to get around quickly at a lesser cost than an overpriced taxi.

According to data firm Statista, the number of two-wheelers sold in 2016-17 was about 1.75 crore compared to 1.64 crores sold in 2015-2016.

India’s bylanes and bazaars make it even more difficult to have a taxi as a choice of transport, making bikes as the apt mode.

Both Ola and Uber have recognized this billion dollar opportunity. They  have entered states where it is legal to convert a two-wheeler into a commercial taxi.

"In a year since its launch in India, UberMOTO has completed 2 million trips," claims an Uber spokesperson.

"In Hyderabad, an UberMOTO is requested every 18 seconds," the company further said. The company is also not adding any new vehicles in Jaipur to ensure better asset utilization of existing two-wheelers.

Apart from providing full time employment, bike taxis are become a source of part-time jobs for students. Delivery boys are also graduating to become full-time bike taxi drivers.

UberMOTO is currently live in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Noida, Ghaziabad and a few small towns of Punjab.

We profile three such bike taxi drivers to the challenges they face and how safe are such taxis for passengers:

Mohan Chatterjee, 25

UberMoto driver

Chatterjee started working for UberMoto from June onwards. For three years, he had worked as a courier and food delivery boy.

For him, ferrying people is easier than carrying heavy loads on the back in peak Delhi summer.

Chatterjee owns a TVS sports bike. He said that the company verified his license and PAN card, and his driving experience before authorizing him for the job.

He earns around Rs 1200 per day which includes Rs 800 as an online payment and Rs 400 as cash.

His fuel expenses are around Rs 250 per day. “These days I am not able to achieve my targets because more drivers are enrolling themselves,” he complains about the oversupply.

He adds, “Earlier, I was able to complete about 30-32 rides a day when there were fewer drivers.”

Biking is a full-time career for him now. He works for 12 hours a day with a target of about 20-22 rides per day. He rides through Noida and Ghaziabad.

“Earlier it was profitable for me working as an UberMoto driver. But for now, I am worried about the competition. I get frequent rides because of the better stars I have on the platform,” he says with pride.

On surge pricing, he said that Uber rewards drivers who pick up rides in areas there is demand.

Both Ola and Uber state that all the riders and drivers have to wear the helmet in Noida and Ghaziabad by law. The driver will have one helmet for the rider.

However, the driver had an extra helmet with him. He didn’t offer it to us.

Apparently, in Gurgaon, the drivers with UberMoto have been more compliant in offering helmets to pillion riders mandatorily.

Uber said that every driver is provided two helmets and it insists on drivers and passengers wearing them.

Akash Vaidya, 26

Ola Bike driver

Akash Vaidya, a 26-year-old MBA student works part-time for Ola bikes in Noida. His employer bought a bike and has kept him as an employee with a salary of Rs 7000.

He uses the cash as pocket money for his expenses on the college campus.

Vaidya’s target from his employer is around 11 rides per day both online and cash.

The cash collected is transferred to his owner, and he receives a cut from that.

“I saw a job offer for a bike driver in my email inbox one day and I applied. It's been 15 days I am working as an Ola bike driver but I don’t know how long will I be working for it,” he says.

He also feels that the part-time job has started impacting his studies.

Vaidya took about 10 minutes to reach our pickup location even though he was nearby. There was no helmet for the rider when I booked the Ola bike ride.

According to Ola, the base fare for a bike ride is Rs 20 for first 3 km and then it goes to Rs 5 per km. It also charges Rs 1 per minute (post 15 minutes ride). The cancellation fee charged is Rs 10.

Amit Sahu, 22

UberMoto driver

Sahu can be described as a daredevil. Despite being handed over a Uber helmet, he likes to carry it in his hand and drive without a helmet.

When we asked Sahu to handover the helmet, he said it won’t look nice that the pillion is wearing one but the driver is not.

Hailing from Jharkhand, 22-year-old Sanjay Sahu treats biking as a temporary job in Noida. “I will go back to my village after 3-4 months when the harvesting season arrives,” he tells, even as he poses for a photo on his TVS bike.

Sahu’s father is a farmer. However, with no jobs in the village, Sahu arrived in Delhi, in search of a livelihood. With some small down payment, he has managed to get a bike leased for about Rs 77,000.

He managed to earn about Rs 1000-Rs 12,000 a day. After deducting commissions, he says one can pocket about Rs 20,000 a month, a decent enough sum considering fresh non-technical graduates get paid about the same amount in India’s tier II cities.

My bike fare was just Rs 30. But Sahu earned about Rs 54, with Rs 24 as an incentive from Uber, to drive in a surge priced area.

According to Uber, the UberMoto rides cost as low as Rs 20 in Noida and Ghaziabad. But since it was surge pricing, I had to pay extra.

According to Sahu, Uber charges Rs 10 as base charge, followed by Rs 5 per kilometre.

Statement by an Uber spokesperson on safety of bike taxi rides: 

"Not only the drivers are instructed to wear helmets, but also riders are advised to wear them on every UberMOTO ride. Every driver is provided two helmets. Moreover, head-caps are also given to riders since the helmets change hands from rider to rider. In cases, wherein any negligence of safety guidelines from drivers is reported, we take appropriate action," an Uber spokesperson said.

Statement by an Ola spokesperson: 

Safety of our driver partner and customer is of utmost importance to us.  We provide two branded, ISI approved, helmets to be used by the driver partners and customer. Apart from the helmets, Ola driver partners are provided with a first-aid kit also.

sabahat.contractor@nw18.com

(Note: Names of riders have been changed to protect identity. Copy was updated with an Ola statement provided on October 11 for the story.) 

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