In the following interview, Utkarsh Dhabande, managing director, Goa Miles, gives his side of the story and responds to the common criticisms raised by consumers. He says to Shoma Patnaik, that, things are improving
- The general opinion is that Goa Miles has yet to make an impact?
We are happy with the progress. Our target is to increase the growth rate and achieve 2,000 taxis by the next six months. Any venture start in the transport domain has a bumpy ride. It is not a smooth ride and things are what we envisaged. There are so many myths about how we operate. Let me reiterate that our model is different from taxi aggregators in other states. They charge a commission between 20-25 per cent to the driver. We charge zero commission and earn through convenience fee to customers. It ranges between Rs 15 for the minimum distance of 6.5 km and increases to maximum Rs 90. The wallet is another myth. Any money left in the wallet can be refunded at any time. If a passenger does not use the app and has money in the wallet he can easily do so. We have an operating center at Margao and opening the second one in St Inez, which is proof of growth.
- How many taxis do you have on board and what is your current track record?
When we started we had inventory size of 200-250 taxis. By the fourth month we made a drastic jump and reached 800 vehicles. The current inventory is about 850 vehicles. We have a pool of applications from almost 2,000 vehicle owners who want to be on app. Verification of the paper work, the background check, vehicle condition, etc., is taking time and slowing down the inventory size. Goa Miles does daily bookings of about 3,000 taxis. The average earning of taxi owners is Rs 2,500- Rs 2,800 per day. Some drivers are big achievers and have business of Rs 5,000 per day. Our app has a download of more than a lakh. Almost 35,000- 38,000 people have used the app as of now.
- Non availability of taxis is a common complain. How many of the taxis are actually plying?
All are not operating at one go. So you need to understand the local mindset. Some people will do a duty today and not come for next two days. There are some drivers who are regular but most are not. At a time 200-225 taxis are on the road and in service.
- Taxi drivers say that they earn higher outside Goa Miles?
This is a standard argument and very simple to answer. A typical Goan taxi driver, settles down to a particular stand and take a fare as and when available. He is happy with the state of affairs because of the kind of money he is charging but not keeping the consumer in mind. Passengers come here for tourism. For taxis it is an opportunity for muscle twisting. They need to realize that earning Rs 2,500 over a period of three days in less than earning Rs 2,500 per day. But they need to sweat. In the app they definitely get a fare daily but need to sweat. Also the rate given by us is very attractive. We are offering is Rs 22 per km for sedan in which the return dry run is also factored. Whereas in Mumbai, the taxi driver who is with app company, is getting Rs six- Rs eight per km. So there is profit to be with us. We have evidence of the profit that our taxis are making and can prove it with bills and everything.
- Customers are saying that Goa Miles rate is too high?
In Goa, whatever the yellow-black taxis charge our rates are much cheaper. Our fare structure is crafted suited to local conditions. Taxi aggregator companies using a pricing model that takes into account the density of the population, the demand for cabs in that place. For passengers the benefit is in paying one fare across season and no high fare in peak season.
- How will you increase the number of taxis in your app?
It is a challenge. I am a third generation transporter and being a tech guy have lots of patience. A taxi app, it must be mentioned is ultimately beneficial to the state. All payments whether cash or online has direct benefit through GST . Taxis are a sizeable market. Goa’s geography, the destination and the kind of passengers (tourists) is also a challenge. The state does not give circular fare but offers point-to-point travel. The local mindset of taxi drivers is slowly changing and even unions are slowly supporting us.
- Customers are complaining of money deducted but no taxi?
Many times the payment gets deducted from the customer bank account but is not credited in Goa Miles. Unless the driver receives the money he will not ply. It is a system problem and not failure from our side. But we are refunding each and every case.