We have heard of strikes from local cab or taxi unions to protest against the likes of Uber, the global cab aggregator and its local competitor Ola. But last week was unprecedented. For probably the first time, since these services gained popularity in India, it was the turn of Ola and Uber cab drivers to be off the road.
This was not for reasons like lack of protection against violence from local taxi unions, but a protest against exploitation from the very aggregators that these drivers chose to work for.
Uber, the cab aggregator became a generic term for disruption across businesses and getting ‘uberised’ became a part of business lexicon. But the turn of events in the past few weeks suggest that Uber and Ola could get uberised if they do not get their act in order.
The main complaint of cab drivers is that revenues have come plummeting down from the earlier days. Incentives are harder to earn, penalties are imposed rather easily and fixed costs (fuel and maintenance) have not come down.
Apart from the strike what do can drivers do. They cite their tales of woe to customers, sometimes for the entire duration of the journey. Are Uber and Ola as guilty as large MNC brands making workers or minor slogging it out in manufacturing sweat shops in third world countries or exploiting farmers or miners as in the case of blood diamonds? In the earlier case, the brands involved were quick to make amends to prevent a potential customer backlash.
Are Uber and Ola taking note before the drivers strike them out of business?