On my recent trip to Mumbai for Indiblogger’s BNLF 2015, I had way too many opportunities to use cab services such as Ola and Uber and I did. On one such ride, I noticed something very odd and that is what I’m going to talk about today.
I was in an Ola Cab, I don’t remember which one it was from the so many that I took in those two days. The driver was way beyond humble and the interiors of his vehicle were very clean and maintained. Not to mention his very peculiar and neat arrangement of wires for his charging cables. You don’t see that sort of thing very often in India. Nevertheless, it was a very usual experience for me because almost all Ola rides I’ve had so far have been more or less the same.
After I entered and made myself comfortable, I realised that the mobile phone he was using for his Ola Driver’s Companion app (that’s what I think it is anyway) was a little awry and malfunctioning. His internet connection was disconnecting every few seconds and as a result, he was unable to Start the Ride until about 5-6 tries.
About 15 minutes passed and his phone stopped showing the route, yet again due to the malfunctioning. After a few not-very-humble tries to reconnect, the route showed up again. Intrigued, I finally asked, “What’s up with your phone?” To which he said, “there’s some issue with the phone not detecting any network, despite the network and SIM being used otherwise.”
“Do you want me to give you a hotspot?” I offered him, half out of altruism and half out of concern. Concern, because I have a vivid imagination and it takes me milliseconds to imagine myself dead at the hands of a cab driver in a city I’ve never visited before, I’m human that way. By this time, we had already reached the destination.
“No, no, I have this other phone, I’ll use its internet”, he declined my offer and took out another smartphone which had a wallpaper that I didn’t take very long to recognize, it was Uber’s wallpaper and that phone had the Uber driver’s companion app on it. So, this person was a driver for both, Ola and Uber. However, before he did anything, his network issue solved itself again and he was able to mark the ride as complete.
An obvious question comes to mind. One, how does he manage the clash of when an Ola and a Uber passenger books his cab at the same time? I’m not aware of the technicality here but as far as I know and understand, there are a lot many cab drivers in a particular area than the number which is shown on the apps in real-time. To my understanding, drivers must definitely have some kind of option to toggle their availability on and off at will. Everyone needs breaks, right? So, if such a mechanism exists and I’m pretty sure it must then that is how they may be managing the clash.
Consider this, the driver is available for hire on both Ola and Uber. Now, say, a customer books him for an Ola cab, before even moving to contact the customer, he would first toggle the other service off, which in this example is Uber and vice versa. Note that this is just me trying to find some rational explanation about how a driver is able to pull this off.
Now, is this morally or legally right or wrong or if this is a common practice or a very specific one, that’s none of my direct concern. What I’d like to point out is that here lies a very unique illusion of choice because how often have we heard a friend say something like, “Ola sucks, I prefer Uber more.” Imagine, how surprised that friend would be when the same driver who made him dislike Ola shows up for his Uber as well.
All in all, the ride was great so it was still a good 5-star worthy Ola ride but this was a very unique incident which I couldn’t resist writing about. So next time you want to choose the better out of Ola and Uber, make sure you rethink if you should in-fact, choose.
A friend drew my attention to Uber’s guidelines. It seems, Uber allows drivers to be associated with other services. In other words, a driver can both be with Ola and Uber at the same time.