Thulo Kanchha Tamang, who has been driving a taxi in Kathmandu for more than a decade, did not expect that he would one day pick up passengers contacted via the app installed on his smartphone.
For Tamang, 40 years old and never finished high school, digital literacy was beyond his imagination. “I thought serving passengers by responding to an app on a smartphone would be difficult, something I never imagined,” Tamang said.
“My friend suggested that I go online,” he said, and seven months ago he joined the Pathao digital platform.
“The technology is amazing. I no longer have to wait for passengers on the side of the road. I get a request from passengers on my app and then I go to pick them up, ”he said, adding that his income had also increased. Tamang provides online and offline services.
Disruptive innovations in taxi, ride-sharing and ride-sharing services are not only making taxi journeys easier, they have radically changed the competitive landscape in Nepal where the union system used to defraud travelers is a deeply rooted disease.
With Pathao, many carpooling and carpooling services like Taximandu, Easytaxi, Eddy Cab, Sarathi, Kawa Rides and Onver Smart Taxi have shaken up the traditional commuting system.
For Tamang, the transformation to digital services means that he no longer has to negotiate with customers because the prices are fixed and transparent.
Many people have had terrible experiences taking a taxi in Kathmandu, because taxi drivers not only charge more than the rate set by the government, they also have to put up with rude attitude and behavior.
Ridesharing apps have changed the dynamics of the market and more and more taxi drivers have started joining digital services, which they were opposed to until a few years ago.
Moreover, people prefer online services because they can request a taxi to come to their door and they don’t have to negotiate the price.
Taxi driver Subarna Maharjan, who had an unpleasant experience before, is now relieved.
He had bought a bed from Lokanthali and was wondering how he was going to get it home. He didn’t know how much he would have to pay for a taxi. His wife suggested that he contact an online taxi service, and she made the request using her cell phone.
The taxi soon arrived on site and picked it up. After that, Maharjan also downloaded the online taxi service app to his phone.
“The price for the taxi was Rs 450, which I thought was Rs 1,100,” said Maharjan, 34, a resident of Bakhundol, Lalitpur. “For the first time, I felt that taking a taxi in the valley was reliable and affordable,” he told The Post.
With the rise of online services, many online taxi service providers, including multinationals, are considering entering Nepal, which may trigger stiff competition in terms of service and cost in the near future.
The ride-sharing company Metro Online Taxi was launched recently. The company charges a minimum of Rs99 for a 1.2 km trip. After that, he charges the rate set by the government which is Rs39 per km.
Metro Online Taxi is conducting road tests and plans to operate fully after Dashain.
“We are all digital. We provide transparent and affordable services, ”said Surya Tamang, Head of Marketing Department at Metro Online Taxi.
“We are seeing fierce competition in the market as we grow,” he said. “It will benefit customers. The company said the passengers are covered by accident insurance worth Rs 500,000.
Ridesharing activity is booming in the valley as travelers have limited options with chaotic public transport.
Metro Online Taxi, formerly known as Easy Taxi, charges a 10% commission on each trip for using the app. According to Tamang, 1% of the commission is set aside for the welfare of drivers.
Industry insiders say there are around 11,000 taxis in the valley, of which around 8,000 actively provide services on a daily basis. Pokhara has nearly 5,500 taxis.
When Arjun KC founded the Taximandu rideshare company in 2019, he struggled to convince taxi drivers of digital services.
“Most of them weren’t tech-savvy, and only a few of them use smartphones,” said the founder and CEO. But it didn’t take long for perceptions to change.
Around 3,000 taxis are currently associated with Taximandu.
Taximandu offers rides at a base rate of Rs 100 per 2 km, and after that it charges Rs 39 per km. The Taximandu app has been downloaded over 40,000 times.
“Taxi drivers have now understood the value of digital services. Not only public taxis, but private cars also provide services, ”KC said. “Taxi services today not only reach customers’ doors using road maps, passengers are also safe because all taxis are trackable via the GPS system.”
According to KC, the demand for online taxi rides has grown by leaps and bounds over the past three years.
Due to growing demand, a US-based multinational corporation, inDriver, has launched a trial run of its app. But there are no proper laws governing ridesharing services, company officials said.
The Ministry of Transportation Management was set to pass a new law in April 2019 to streamline and regulate ridesharing services in Kathmandu, but it has not been enacted.
Namaraj Ghimire, director general of the Department of Transportation Management, said they had sent a draft regulation to the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transportation that will be filed with the cabinet for approval.
Ghimire said he was not aware of the status of the proposed settlement. Sher Bahadur Deuba’s administration has struggled to appoint new ministers for more than two months, and there is a backlog of hundreds of cases waiting to be processed, according to insiders.
“In the past, taxi service was a luxury. With digitization it has become affordable and convenient, ”KC said.