Uber launched its premium car pickup and drop service in Delhi last month. I had been itching to try the service as I had earlier used it in the US and was left very impressed. I wanted to see whether Uber could retain the same standards here in India and whether it could emerge as an alternative to popular radio cab services. For those unaware about Uber can find out more here.
Last night I lost track of time while chilling with friends and realized I had completely forgotten I didn’t have a car to return home. A friend suggested I call a radio cab, when I realized this could be the best time to test Uber. I already had an account with them and their Android app is easy enough to request a pick up directly from the homescreen. The app shows the closest Uber driver and the make of the car with an ETA by when the driver would reach you. If you enter your destination, the app also gives an estimate of the fare and I did end up paying within that range. Having said that, it is just an estimate and the actual fare could vary depending on the traffic conditions, among other things.
Barely a minute after confirming my booking, I got a missed call from my driver for the night, Michael, who was enroute to pick me up from Connaught Place in his Audi A6. In order to find my exact location he had to give me a couple of missed calls. I found the missed calls a bit odd considering Uber is a premium service and since the missed call is coming from an unknown number, there are very high chances of the user not returning the call or missing the short missed call ring completely, like I did as I was in a noisy place. Nevertheless, Michael was there within 15 minutes of my confirming the booking. The good thing is I could track his whereabouts at all times on the app.
The Uber experience is very different from a regular cab service. I found Michael to be presentable and polite, someone who could engage in conversations if that’s what you want. Uber has outfitted all cars with iPhones on which the app runs. Being an Audi A6 aside, the car was well maintained. So far so good.
As soon as I got into the car, Michael asked for my drop-off location. I wanted to go to Ghaziabad and he informed me that I would have to pay the state tax as his was a commercial vehicle that did not have permit to enter UP. I found this contrary to what Uber’s Neeraj Singhal had told me at the time of launch. He had confirmed that all Uber cars would have all-India permits, which certainly wasn’t the case here. Michael clarified that he did have the permit to go to Gurgaon but didn’t have one for UP, which would cost me Rs 250 extra. While it was unexpected, I appreciated the fact that he clarified it at the beginning itself rather than dealing with it later.
That taken care of, I found the ride to be very comfortable and didn’t mind engaging in conversations with Michael, who has been working as an Uber driver since its Delhi launch and has been doing 5-6 “duties” daily. Uber charges a base fare of Rs 70 and charges Rs 20 per kilometre and Rs 2 per minute. I paid Rs 536 as the fare for a 12.43 kilometre ride, which is not very expensive when compared what I would pay a radio cab. What pinched me was the Rs 250 that I had to pay for tax in UP (not applicable if you are travelling within Delhi or Gurgaon).
Nevertheless, I had a great experience with Uber. Having premium cars ensures that the drivers are good and drive more carefully that what I have experienced with other cab services. Also, none of the cars have any branding – neither Uber’s or the fleet owners – which might make a difference to some people, especially if you have to impress someone. And lastly, there is no other service out there that will offer such premium cars at these prices.
One of the best things about Uber is that users don’t have to pay by cash. There is no last-minute hunt for an ATM as the amount is directly accounted to the credit card associated with your Uber account.
I don’t see Uber competing with other cab services as you cannot book a car a few hours in advance. It is more about immediacy and you wanting a ride in the next 15-20 minutes. It is too early to see whether Uber has enough cars to become a reliable option for all times once demand picks up, but I would be glad if it did become one.