While Uber and Ola continue to work on their respective operations and troubleshoot continuing issues, a new app-based taxi aggregator has launched in Mumbai. S3 Cab has been set up by Sohel Kazani, a Mumbai-based freight and logistics veteran who runs Bharat Freight. The company hopes to change the app-based taxi landscape in Mumbai with slightly different approaches to the industry – one that keeps the interests of both the drivers and the customers in mind.
To start off, the company has on-boarded 700 drivers, who have mostly partnered with the company after poor experiences working with Uber and Ola. The vehicles are standard cars as you would expect on the Uber and Ola platforms, and riders get air-conditioning in all vehicles. You select your pick-up and drop-off locations on the app, and a vehicle comes and picks you up. There is also some emphasis on the safety of the platform, touting itself as a safer alternative to Uber and Ola. Both of the existing operators have seen reports of their drivers breaking safety norms, and some serious crimes such as rape have also been reported.
Drivers won’t be charged a commission until after the first Rs 1,800, and all earnings beyond that will be charged a 10 percent commission by S3. Additionally, the cabs will double-up as logistics providers, moving parcels around the city, according to the co-founder Sohel Kazani.
However, S3 Cab’s success is something that remains to be seen. Its emphasis on protecting drivers interests has seen it tie up with key drivers unions in Mumbai, and keeping the unions on its side will allow the company to ensure continuous services. The large number of claimed vehicles at the start may also be an advantage, since the service will be able to better serve the city. There are no ride-sharing options such as Uber Pool or Ola Share, and the company states that it will never have a model that operates on surge pricing.
This means that fares will be standard across the board and will depend on the distance and time, just like ordinary metered city taxis. But there are drawbacks to this model. Protecting driver interests will naturally mean that a customer-first approach isn’t possible. The fares will be higher, but the lack of surge pricing will likely balance out the higher standard fares. And a lack of surge pricing may also mean that taxis are not easily available everywhere when the rider needs one.
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We were hoping to try out the service, and S3 Cab had promised to send a vehicle to pick me up for the event and then drop me off later. Ironically, the vehicle never made it, and I had to rely on city taxis to attend the launch event, which is a bit bothersome for a company that claims to be the biggest challenger to Uber and Ola in the app-based taxi market. Additionally, when I downloaded the app, I found a sparse number of cabs operating in the city. All of the company’s claims may sound good on paper, but there’s barely any functional service to speak of for the time being.
For the time being, S3 Cab doesn’t look like it can compete against the might of Uber and Ola, despite the claims of 700 vehicles. If you’re an app-based taxi user in Mumbai, you’ll still likely be relying on the established brands for now.