Bengaluru: Come this Wednesday, people in Bengaluru will have one more app-based cab to choose from. The brand new initiative wants to take on giants like US-based Uber and Bengaluru-headquartered Ola.
But there is a difference. Unlike Uber and Ola, it is not backed by any corporate house or venture capital firm in US or Japan.
The new cab hailing app, Namma TYGR, is backed by Janata Dal (Secular), the political party of former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. This is perhaps the first time that a political party is backing a cab firm.
But what is the connection and why do the Gowdas want get into this business? The answer may lie in the upcoming Assembly election and vote bank.
Most of the cab drivers who work for Uber and Ola in the city are from districts like Mandya, Hassan, Mysore, Tumkur, Kolar, Bengaluru Rural, Chamarajanagara in the in the old Mysore belt.
The lucrative incentives initially offered by Uber and Ola attracted tens of thousands of young villagers towards this new job opportunity.
While the big money continued for the first few years, the cab giants started reducing the incentives after competition heated up, making it unviable for many cab drivers.
Thousands of drivers abandoned their cabs and returned to their villages in the first few months of this year. Others took to streets demanding better working conditions and incentives from Uber and Ola.
JDS state chief H D Kumaraswamy sensed an opportunity and quickly extended his support to them. When the talks with the managements failed, he promised them that he will start his own app-based cab service to protect the interests of drivers and passengers. For this, he tied up with a Kolkata based start-up firm TYGR.
The trial runs for this service started in September. According to Kumaraswamy, about 5,000 cabs will hit the streets on Wednesday.
The former Karnataka chief minister said, “I am not doing it for votes. The Assembly election is not the reason. Most of these cab drivers are villagers and are being exploited by bigger players. Many have sold their small piece of land to buy a vehicle. They were in bad shape. I heard their stories and wept. It is my humble initiative to help them to stand on their own feet”.
His father and JDS supremo, Deve Gowda, said it was a social obligation. “Please don’t link it to upcoming assembly polls. As Kumaraswamy has already clarified, it is a humanitarian venture by the JDS to help the poor cab owners and drivers. Namma TYGR fares are low compared to others. Even the people benefit from this”.
He said that Namma TYGR will soon have 10,000 cabs and they want to take it to 25,000 by next year-end. Namma TYGR drivers’ association leader Tanveer Pasha said that they will charge Rs 12.50 per KM for hatchbacks, Rs 14.50 for sedans and Rs 18.50 for SUVs.
He also said that there will be no surge prices and they will not offer share rides as it is illegal. The market leaders Uber and Ola have chosen to remain silent on this new venture. The ruling Congress and the main opposition BJP also refused to comment.
If all goes to plan, Kumaraswamy may ride the app cab to Vidhana Soudha after the elections due in April next year.