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The taxi revolution

  • Cab-hailing apps are making commuting in Kathmandu cheap, convenient and transparent
- Bivek Khatiwada, Kathmandu
It is as easy as it gets, in order to get started, all one needs to do is download the app, register, and provide pickup and destination locations. Then, a driver closest to the customer responds when and if available

Oct 31, 2017-Travelling in a public vehicle in Kathmandu is often taxing, to say the least. Right from when you board the vehicle to when you disembark, the experience is invariably always draining. Then, there is always the perennial threat of harassment or pick pocketing. And while taxis provide a safe and convenient alternative to public transport, their rates are often arbitrary and leave you with a significant hole in your pocket.

As a result, over the last couple of years, a few startups have attempted to capitalise on the cab-hailing service by making it both affordable and convenient for the Kathmandu’s commuters. It is as easy as it gets, in order to get started, all one needs to do is download the app, register, and provide pickup and destination locations.

Then, a driver closest to the customer responds when and if available. 

Although they all serve the same purpose, each app is set apart from the other by the unique service, user friendliness, app reliability, and the user interface that they offer. Here is the verdict on some of the most-used cab-hailing apps available in the Valley.

Kawa Rides

Blending transportation and technology together, Kawa started its services with two hundred cabs with the plans to extend the number to 1200 in a year. To make the services easily accessible to the users, the cabs are stationed at high-traffic locations and popular tourist destinations within the Valley. The fares are based on the distance traveled—the rates are standard, as per those set by Department of Transportation Management. This ensures that the customer does not have to spend a fortune commuting. 

Once passenger completes their registration, the app displays a map with all the available cabs in the vicinity, alongside the name of the driver and the cab number. If no cabs are available nearby, the app asks for a new search within an extended periphery. However, with the range extended, an additional charge will be applied to the standard fare taking into consideration the extra kilometers the driver has to ply just to pick up the passenger.

The app demands that the commuter be punctual. The fare top-up increases proportionally to the time that a cabbie has to wait. The cab fare also upsurges by 50 percent at nighttime—9pm to 6am. At the end of the trip, the app displays the commute fare, and the transactions are currently cash-only.

Kawa’s user interface is clean and focused towards providing a safe and reliable commute. There are no confusing extra features and it comes as a pleasant landing page making the app easy to use. 

According to the Kawa Rides team,  the app will add a feature that allows passengers to share their ride details with closed ones. The developers are also in talk with the Nepal Police to strengthen their security policy.

There are two simultaneous apps for the Kawa Rides: One for the passengers and another for the drivers.  Both apps can be easily found on the Android Play Store. However, even after several months of its services, their iOS counterparts are yet to be available on the App Store.

Onver Smart Taxi

Onver is another taxi-hailing app, which started their services in October last year. With over two hundred cabs, Onver Smart Taxi is providing 24 hours of online service, in addition to an operating call centre from 7AM to 9PM. 

Onver Smart Taxi includes features such as taxi tracking and route management, distance and cost estimation. On choosing the destination on the app, the app displays the shortest route for the journey. As the Onver taxis also work on meter-based fare system as per the Department of Transportation Management, the suggestion of the shortest route to the journey makes the already affordable fare even cheaper. In addition, the pre-estimation of time and cost on selecting the destination makes it easier for the commuter to plan the ride in advance.

The app uses smart technologies like GPS, Maps and GCM in order to providing hassle-free and affordable transportation services. The app is currently available on Google Play Store, with plans to launch on Apple and Windows App Store soon. Two Android apps are available on the Play Store. Dubbed as Onver Smart Taxi, the app is designed for passengers, whereas the driver counterpart is available as Onver Partner. 

Eddy Cab

Developed by Mobile Application Solutions Pvt Ltd, Eddy cab claims to be the first-ever cab-hailing app in the Valley. Their system, however, is rather disappointing. Interested commuters are often disheartened just because they do not get the verification code to complete their registration.

After the selection of a destination on the app, all the available cabs in proximity are displayed along with their distance and ratings provided by the customers as per their service quality. These factors are great as they help the customer make their pick. Once the list of available drivers is displayed, the customer selects one among them within the designated time. This feature is handy for the drivers, who are always in hurry to pick up another passenger. The Eddy Cab accepts only cash payments, and also includes an extra Rs 16.95 as a service charge, of which Rs 15 goes to the company and the remaining Rs 1.95 is the levied VAT amount.

The service of the Eddy Cab is not confined to the Android devices the Kawa Rides or Onver Smart Taxi. The Eddy Cab apps are available on both Google Play Store and Apple Play Store, and can be downloaded for free.

Verdict

All the apps mentioned above work with GPS—Global Positioning System—which make tracking the routes and finding the drivers/passengers easier. With an objective of bringing transportation and technology together, these startups have done a commendable job in digitalising Kathmandu’s commutes. 

Also, the use of licensed, well-trained, and well-experienced drivers for service has shown the startups’ concern for passengers’ safety and security. However, as a result of mismanagement, it is not uncommon for drivers to find a way to charge more than the commuters should pay. In addition, as the apps have jumped on to the automated system without proper and careful management and bug fixes, failure in the system and service is inescapable. That, undoubtedly, will smoothen out over time, but for now, these cab-hailing apps have to some extent succeeded where other transport entrepreneurs have failed—in making commutes in the Valley quick, cheap and transparent.  

Published: 31-10-2017 09:05

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