700 more radio cabs to flood market

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Taxi operator Meru Cabs is in expansion mode in Bangalore. It will be augmenting its current fleet of 1,500 cars with 500-700 hatchbacks. The taxi service has come a long way since it began operations in the city in 2008. It currently operates in a big way on the Bangalore International Airport (BIA) route. Out of the 7,000 trips it delivers every day, 3,700 are within the city.

Meru Cabs CEO Siddharth Pahwa spoke to Bangalore Mirror on his company’s five years in the city and more. Excerpts:

BM: What can Bangaloreans expect from Meru Cabs?
Pahwa: Based on the growing demand for cabs in Bangalore, we have decided to expand our services. The target is likely to be achieved within a year. In addition to the 1,500 taxis we have, we will introduce air conditioned hatchbacks — each with a seating capacity of four. Customers will be charged around Rs 15-16 per km.

How has the city responded to Meru Cabs in the past five years?
When we started in Bangalore in 2008 we barely had 1,000 trips a day. Now, we have 7,000 trips every day. With an investment of Rs 60 crore in Bangalore city, Meru is making profit after paying tax. It has also deliver more than 22 per cent returns on the capital employed.

What are the major complaints you get from customers?
We get around 600 complaints a month from customers. They primarily complain about two things: One, car not reaching on time. Two, they were not issued a bill. To address the first complaint, we have optimised our technology by tracking traffic in all areas. The driver who is nearest to the location is sent to the pickup point after monitoring traffic in the area. If the driver does not reach the place on time, we give our customers a gift voucher of Rs 500. To rectify the second complaint, we introduced e-bill two months ago.

How do you plan to face increasing number of players in the market?
We see no competition in the market. No other radio service taxi operator is equipped with the kind of technology and offers the services that we do.

You have strict fines on drivers who violate rules and over-speeding. What are the incentives you give them?
We levy a fine of Rs 1,000 if the driver breaks the company’s etiquette rules or speeds beyond 80kmph. We have 1,700 drivers in the Bangalore office who pay a daily subscription fee of Rs 1,300. Diesel cost is borne by them and we take care of maintenance. Each driver gets around six trips every day and can take home Rs 21,000 a month. Apart from rewards and recognitions, we have started a driver-cum-owner scheme. Under this scheme, a driver can buy his own car and maintain it but use our technology and brand. In return, he will give us a share of his profit. He can also employ his own driver. We have around 200 drivers-cum-owners in Bangalore. This gives them a chance of becoming entrepreneurs. We have a safety-net policy, wherein a driver can take home at least Rs 15,000 a month if he adheres to the company’s policies.

How has the growth been across cities?
Bangalore and Hyderabad have seen good growth compared to Delhi and Mumbai.

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