Though the San Francisco-based Uber and Bangalore-based Meru ply our roads with fancy wheels and advanced, customer-friendly technologies (think GPS tracking, app bookings, etc), the 30-odd existing players find business is as usual. In fact, 13-year-old Fast Track, still receive around 25,000 calls per day. With each operator vying to give better service, round the clock availability, sharper security options and easy payment modes, the customer is the winner all the way. We take stock of the top cab services in the city.
The San Francisco-based company that started in 2010, and since expanded to over 80 cities across the globe, has an Indian presence in five cities‑ most recently in Mumbai and Chennai (last month). Their services centre on an all-platform app, which tracks your GPS location and sends a pick-up notification to the cab (anything from a Merc or BMW to an Innova, Altis, Camry or Accord —depending on your luck) that is nearest to you. Swathy Prithivi, who oversees Uber’s Chennai operations, reveals that Uber majorly employs the Innova and the Accord in their fleet of cars at present, adding that services in Chennai haven’t yet reached the level required for them to use high‑end cars like Mercedes and Jaguar. “We also have credit card payment facilities, which complete the transaction via your smartphone (you need to enter your credit card details while signing up for the app),” she says, thereby explaining the concept of a “near cashless experience” of riding in an Uber. “It’s as good as travelling in your own car,” she explains. However despite giving round-the-clock service, Swathi points out that there are less chances of getting an Uber from 2 am to 6 am, as the drivers may not be available then. You can hire them for a base price of Rs. 50 followed by Rs. 15 for every kilometre and Rs. 2 per minute. Details: uber.com
Started 13 years ago in Chennai, they get around 25,000 calls a day and have special counters in Tambaram, Perambur, Central and the airport. With around 6,000 cabs, none of which is owned by them, they check and certify the vehicles every three months. “We don’t keep a car for more than four years,” Jayaraj, vehicle manager, says. They have a range of cars like the Tata Indica, Toyota Liva, Indigo Dzire, Toyota Etios, Mahindra Verito, Ford Fiesta, Chevrolet Tavera, Mahindra Xylo and the ever‑dependable Toyota Innova. “Most of our calls come from places like Thiruvanmiyur, Adyar and T Nagar, to name a few. And Gumidipudi in the outskirts—where we have cars too,” Jayaraj adds. Their latest feature is the live booking facility on their website, where one needs to enter details including pick up and drop off timings, date and email-id. Their charges start from Rs. 100 for the first four kms and an additional Rs. 18 per km. Waiting charges at Rs. 2 per minute.
Details: 60006000, 28889999, 24732020
The six-year old company, which has around 7,000 cabs in seven cities across the country, arrived in Chennai with 200 cabs last month. So far they have received most calls (some repeat ones) from areas like Nungambakam, the Central railway station and the airport. With three cars (Toyota Etios, Tata Manza and Ford Classic) on offer, their services are similar to that of Uber (they also have a dedicated all-platform app), apart from some exclusive benefits. “We provide e-bills to corporates (to aid reimbursements), credentials of drivers—including bio-metric information (fingerprints and retinal scans)—to customers, and SMS emergency alerts (ie. geographic coordinates) to pre-notified secondary numbers,” says the CEO of Meru, Siddhartha Pahwa. He further reveals that all the drivers undergo four months of training at the Meru Training Academy. “We also have tie-ups with car dealers for fortnightly servicing of the cars,” he adds. Currently receiving over 1,000 calls a day, Meru charges a base fare of Rs. 100 for the first four kms and an additional Rs. 20 for subsequent four kms. Waiting charges at Rs. 2 per minute. Details: 44224422
With over 3,000 cabs (150 owned by them), NTL Taxi was started in 2013. They too have GPS routing enabled in their cars, that range from Tata Indica, Mahindra‑Renault Logan and Ford Fiesta to Ford Ikon, Tata Sumo Grande and Mahindra Xylo, and even a Tempo traveller. “We also provide credit card payment facility with the required machines installed in every car,” Elango, head of operations, says. They have a first-aid box at hand in case of a medical emergency. Fire extinguishers, torch lights and an umbrella are some of the other essentials that one will find in their cars. With calls mostly from Koyembedu and airport, they service their cars every month. Charges at Rs. 100 for the first four kms followed by Rs. 18 for every additional kilometre. Waiting charges start from Rs. 8 for five
minutes. Details: 30003000, 66666666
Welcome call taxi
The new Welome Call Taxi, which started operations on Tamil New Year (April 14), will let customers pick a vehicle of their choice via a smartphone app. With around 200 cars from Ford, Hyundai, Maruti, Toyota and Tata, they have GPS guiding systems and in-cab televisions for entertainment. The rates are very competitive at Rs. 75 for the first three kms and Rs. 17 for every additional kilometre. Details: 30033003
Launched in the city last October, the three-year‑old Bangalore-based company has around 600 cars at their disposal in Chennai, none of which is owned by them. With GPS devices that record information (time, charges, route, etc) from the moment a customer steps in, the cars are serviced every month depending on their usage. “We are planning to include a feature called OLA Money Wallet, similar to other online wallet services,” Anand Subramanian, head of corporate communications, says. Their cars in Chennai are sedans (like Swift Dzire, Mahindra Verito, Toyota Etios and Tata Indigo) for now and their drivers have been professionally trained by the company. One highlight of their services is the missed call tracking feature. It allows customers to get the current status of the car by simply giving a missed call to driver’s phone. Details: 33553355 .