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How Bangalore calls for cabs

Taxi service providers have hopped on to the app cart. They are enabling their users to book taxis via their Smartphones. But which ones really work? Explocity speaks to various service providers and users to find out.

There are a number of taxi service providers in India that have adapted to the ever increasing popularity of mobile technology. With almost everyone getting a Smartphone, taxi services have realised the potential. These apps allow you to send your location (based on Google maps or the mobile phone tower reading) to the taxi service provider and you can have a cab pick you up without giving any directions. Of course, Indian addresses can be complicated and Google maps aren't always 100% accurate (one ways are a particular problem) so sending some additional information like landmarks will ensure you are picked up without fuss.

Ola Cabs – (iOS, Android)
Ola Cabs services travellers in Delhi, Gurgaon, Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore. The app allows you to book a cab in just a couple of clicks and sends you the driver’s details instantly via SMS. You can also view the route your cab driver is taking on a map. According to Ola cabs, around 30% of bookings are done via the app daily.

"Ola’s backend model is different from other operators and what we present to our customers in terms of experience is also different and constantly evolving. We use technology for our customers. Our app allows people to book cabs in just a click and they can view the progress of their cab in a map. Going forward, we plan to introduce a pre-paid option module as well," says Anand Subramaniam, Head - PR and Corporate Communications, Ola Cabs.

Sunil Peters (@sunilpeters via Twitter) – a user who works with Hewlett Packard has had a good experience with them. "Indeed the smoothest I've used. Excellent service and punctual drivers."

Meru Cabs - (iOs, Android)
Meru operates in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Jaipur. It is similar to the Ola Cabs app with an additional ‘Emergency Alert’ feature that sends an SMS and map reading of your location to a friend or family member, if you so desire. According to Meru, over one lakh users downloaded the app within 45 days of its launch and approximately 14% of bookings are received via the mobile app currently.

"Each Meru cab is fitted with GPS/GPRS based terminal which gives real-time information of the cab's location and status, to the dispatch system. The system automatically dispatches over 20000 bookings every day through the use of intelligent algorithms. Our app is particularly useful for people on the go or those who would prefer an instant cab booking, rather than calling. Customers can rate the service at the end of the journey and get an e-bill. The panic button feature called ICE alert (In Case of Emergency), can be used to alert a friends or family member or friends in case of an emergency," says Nilesh Sangoi, CTO, Meru Cabs.

Barring a few minor glitches, customers seem to have a pleasant experience with Meru. "I had a hard time getting past the Terms & Conditions screen and had to re-install the app before I could use it again. After that it has been pretty smooth. Although often when I try booking a cab, none are available. I like the emergency button though," says Walzeena Anand, who as a Technology Analyst for Goldman Sachs.

EasyCabs – (iOs, Android, BlackBerry)
The EasyCabs app doesn't have features such as an interactive map and one click booking and doesn't have enough locations fed into its database. But the look and feel is simple and the app is easy to use though, if you don’t mind typing. The EasyCabs management was contacted by us, but they were reluctant to give a comment or any usage statistics.

However, Gaurav Rana, who works for Towers Watson as a Senior Analyst says, "There aren't too many locations in the app. Often, we have to enter the closest location."

Cabsguru (Android, iOs coming soon)
Cabsguru is more of an aggregator like Farecompare and other online airline aggregators. It doesn't have its own taxi service, but takes your booking (i.e. pick up and destination point and preferred time) and generates a compilation of various taxi operators that have cabs available in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Gurgaon, Noida and Goa.

According to Cabsguru, their app has been downloaded on over 3500 Smartphones. Being present only on mobiles, all their bookings come via their app.

"Our app provides a bridge between multiple taxi service providers and travellers. One price doesn't fit all in our country. Some prefer luxury and while others prefer a budget option so we partner with major taxi service providers and provide booking facilities with multiple options through a single app. We see big a opportunity in the mobile space and are focusing solely on the mobile platform," says Vikash Singh, founder, Cabsguru.

Customers seem to like it. According to C Manoj Kumar who works for a media company, "It's pretty useful. I can choose from a wide number of cab companies."

TaxiForSure (iOs, Android)
Like Cabsguru, TaxiForSure doesn’t have its own fleet, but operates as an aggregator of various taxi services. They provide services in Bangalore and Delhi NCR. According to TaxiForSure, Over 20,000 app downloads (iOs and Android combined) and over 15% bookings are made via apps. "Our business was launched with the idea of wanting and finding taxis using Smartphones. With the launch of our apps, we are enabling our customers to get a taxi for planned as well as serendipitous occasions. On the very first day of launch, we saw almost 4% of our bookings coming from apps. Bookings have doubled since then and continue to grow at a healthy rate," explains Aprameya Radhakrishna, founder and director, TaxiForSure.

Ashwin Isaac who works for an American Credit Card company has mixed feelings about the app. "The app brings in location tracking and hence there’s transparency in billing. But as a user, I feel it misses simplicity. The location function is very problematic. I tried almost for 10 minutes but couldn’t book till I called Customer Care. If they fix the location issue, the app would get five stars from me!"