After fighting it out on the roads, cab aggregators Uber and Ola are set for a face-off outside railway stations.
According to a proposal, users who book tickets through the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) app would be able to schedule a ride with a cab aggregator on a future date and time.
The selected company would be given a staging area near the station to park a pool of cabs. Rides would be offered to drivers on a first-in, first-out basis. Similar to those in all major airports, the cab service provider would have service booths at major stations for passengers without smartphones to book.
The Suresh Prabhu-led railway ministry is toying with the idea of offering space for the cab operators at railway stations so that a travellers can get connectivity from railway stations easily. The Railways is likely to get an additional Rs 120 crore non-fare revenue from this step. It would have to float a tender before starting this initiative.
Officials said Uber and Ola teams have had meetings with the railways. “Uber has also mooted the idea of launching a carpool facility for travellers on the same train travelling in the same direction,” said a source close to the development. “This will be through integrating UberPOOL into the IRCTC booking flow, thereby reducing the ride cost for passengers.”
Both the cab aggregators are engaged in a battle to garner the market share offered by the railways’ initiative. Though the San Francisco-based Uber is aggressively moving ahead in the Indian market, Ola still holds a majority share in the market.
If the railways floats a tender, it might intensify the price war between Uber and Ola, which had reduced prices to Rs 3 per km. To compete with the global giant, Ola had come up with new categories.
Both rivals are expected to invest about $2.25 billion in India in the near future. While cash-rich Uber had reportedly invested more than $1 billion in the past year, Ola has the backing of groups like SoftBank and some cash-rich venture capitalists.
For the railways, the move is a part of its effort to increase non-tariff revenues by 10-20%, according to a road map drawn by minister Suresh Prabhu in the Budget. The ministry’s plan includes monetising soft assets such as websites, data, advertising space, station redevelopment and land banks, thereby increasing the annual non-fare revenue to about Rs 4,000 crore by 2020.
The other major service providers in the sector are Baxi, Shuttl, Meru and BlaBlaCar.