Home Hyderabad Column Surge (sur)price

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How the city manages to beat the cab services at their own game

IN most confrontations between the global and local, often times, the global brings a sweeping change too strong to resist, and the lo gets swept off. The first local response to a global trend – either a welcoming acceptance or a resisting reluctance – has no consequence on the outcome – the global wins, and the local gets incorporated. Well, almost. Despite it being a low percentage game, the Hyderabadi local does not mind having a go at the global; and treading a tedious and concocted path of argument, claims a win. One such Goliath we attempt to take on, in vain, is surge pricing of the taxis we so deeply love, but and during its surge hour, so strongly hate.
“It is really simple,” a little bird boasts. “Book a cab and if you see a surge, cancel. Try again. After three consecutive cancels, the surge will be off. I pay the fare while my friends pay a surge. I found the magical workaround the surge.” Then pit one cab service against the other. “Two smart phones in two hands – one books A, one gets price from B – and I keep cancelling the trip after exactly four minutes. No cancellation fee. As they both bring their prices down one bid at a click… I hop on after getting the lowest fare point that I create for myself.”
I am intrigued enough to check on it before I get derisive about their claims. The man who handles some key features of Uber’s surge pricing algorithm globally is an old friend; and sadly for little bird and big wolf, a fellow Hyderabadi. “Got those flaws checked and plugged first thing after I joined… lest Hyderabadi ingenuity beat us,” he responds, gleefully.
I decide to beat the cabbies in my own way and take an autorickshaw. I am sure though that soon autos drivers will be checking on the cab prices before giving us an offer, with the meter always being off.
TAILPIECE: If late Jack Kerouac, the American writer had visited Hyderabad, he would have revised his greatest work –‘On the Road’. Or singer Chris Rea – famed for ‘Road to Hell’. Here, roads are hell. At least for a while more.

Sriram Karri

(Sriram Karri is author of the bestselling novel Autobiography of a Mad Nation. He writes for international media including The New York Times and BBC besides organising debates at HydPark)

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