The call by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to taxi operators to come on board and try out the online app has to be heeded by the cab owners and drivers in the State.
Unless the taxi operators get the online experience, there is nothing that they can compare the present system they are using with. If after a month of the online app-based service, there are issues, these can be further sorted out or cleared before they join the system permanently. If there are genuine regrets and they choose not to join the online system, then at least they will have tried. There are four month before the tourism season starts, which provides ample time to iron out any issues.
The taxi issue has remained unsorted for long. Like the Sonsoddo garbage dump, it has remained a festering wound that successive governments have paid lip service to. There has never been a strong political will to bring the taxi operators together and get them to toe the government line. Sawant has displayed that political will, but he has to now take it forward and not fall back at the first hurdle that the taxi operators will place. Given that the operators are against the online app-based service, they aren’t likely to accept the Chief Minister’s offer immediately or take it kindly.
Politics, has already played its part in the issue, with the battle lines being drawn. There will be a battle of nerves and whoever blinks first will be the loser. In the past it has been the government that has blinked first. Who will it be this time?
Taxi operators have to understand that the concept of app-based taxi service is not to eat into their share of the existing business. This is merely a digital innovation of marketing the service while the traditional method of doing business remains. Taxi operators will still have passengers to ferry, only they will be collecting their passengers from the pickup point that has been chosen by the passenger and communicated to the online service provider who will in turn communicate this to the taxi driver. It is a system whereby the taxi operator can get a higher number of fares in a day than he is currently getting.
The taxis and the drivers and the operators remain the same. What changes is the marketing of the service which has an aggregator who controls the business operations part, and hence has the potential to increase the customer base. In the digital era, the open mind to change is important. The tansition to app-based taxi service is inevitable, given that the customer today is looking for convenience of booking a cab from his home and picked up at the door step, or from the airport, railway station, bus stand, without having to stand in queue for a cab. The online system of booking makes this happen. How will the traditional method of stationing taxis at designated spots compete with such an online system?
Goa is already a step behind in the app-based service, as it has its own app and own company, that forces tourists and business travellers to the State to download this app in addition to the other apps they already have. Despite that disadvantage, the app-based service appears to be doing reasonably well, and there have been no complaints from the taxi operators who have opted for the app. Running a taxi is finally a question of profitablity, if the online system brings a large slice of profit, then the taxi operators should have no reason to oppose it. And if the system makes Goa a more tourist friendly place, then who will complain?