All set to change the colour of the ubiquitous sight on Mumbai streets – the black and yellow cabs – to white and red cab fleet, TABcab that is introducing 4000 cabs by 2013 and 20,000 in the next five years, understands that the most important partner of it’s strategic vision are the chauffeurs. TABcab, a venture by SMS Taxicabs, a subsidiary of Nagpur headquartered SMS Infrastructure, has a strong training and CSR focus for their ‘Saathis’, as the chauffeurs are addressed in the company.
Launched in February 2012, there are currently 1850 Toyota Etios and Maruti Suzuki SX4 plying the roads with more being rolled out gradually. “The car is our asset, the chauffeur drives it and pays us rent. They are not our employees, it is more an entrepreneurial model. We have always had this philosophy from the initiation of the business itself that though they are not our employees there are lots of challenges that a chauffeur goes through. We are very sensitive about giving maximum support to them and believe in going that extra mile. Whatever their unions had been demanding for years, we have already done that in the first year itself,” says Prasenjeet Bagchi, chief marketing officer, TABcab- SMS Taxicabs. The company provides them with a support system called the Aadhar Scheme – Barah Hazar ki Guarantee, which ensures that every chauffeur takes home Rs 12000 a month, even if he does less business. For example, if a driver makes only Rs 8000 a month , then the company compensates by giving him Rs 4000 more. “This is a very important support for them. Insurance for them is already there. We also take care of health insurance. The company also provides education expense for one child, for the whole year. Extra leaves are given to the drivers, which were not there earlier,” adds Bagchi.
A loyalty club has also been introduced, and based on the duration of the driver’s engagement with company extra leaves and benefits are given. Besides, a new initiative called ‘Saathi Ghummakar’ has also been introduced for best performers – they are given a fully paid three days holiday along with family. The other CSR initiatives include health check up and eye check up camps – at airports and locations where they can go easily.
All the chauffeurs are trained in technical and soft skills. Every driver has to undergo a three-day training programme. The drivers are taxi badge holders. For getting a taxi badge the minimum requirement is 15 years domicile of Maharashtra and five years residential ration card of Mumbai, Thane or Raigarh district. “But 90 per cent taxi drivers in Mumbai are outsiders so locals have not come into this trade. But of late outsiders have also been barred because of these two regulations and locals are not coming – there is a big gap between demand and supply. We have a requirement of 4000 drivers. Many of the divers working with our competitors have shifted to us, also black and yellow taxi drivers are coming to us,” states Bagchi, pointing out that there are two different segments of behaviour. The driver who is coming from phone fleet taxi business still understands a lot of things and has gone through some kind of training before. However, the driver of a black and yellow taxi has to firstly understand about the car, which is very different from what he has been driving and also learn the soft skills. “We train them on all of this as they have to meet the expectations of a new set of customers. Sensitisation happens and they learn how to behave with the customer. There is a behaviour change communication model,” informs Bagchi.
Safe cab ride
TABcab has introduced a feature called Safe Assure to ensure safety and security of passengers if a woman / a child or senior citizen is travelling alone. “We hotlist and track the cab and monitor that it does not go off the route. If it does we immediately call up the driver. We sensitise the driver prior to the travel that he has to safely drop the person and then give the company a confirmation call,” informs Bagchi. There are no extra charges for the Safe Assure feature. At the time of booking the cab, it has to be conveyed that the passenger wants to travel with Safe Assure feature and the tracking device will get activated. “In any case every cab is tracked real-time, but once it is hotlisted on Safe Assure feature it is further more prioritised on tracking,” mentions Bagchi. He asserts that every phone fleet taxi is safe because of mobile data terminal (MDT). “We further believe that TABcab is safer than other phone fleet taxis because we have a better IT system that enables us to track a cab better, which makes it safer. This even the driver knows so he will not do anything wrong,” he states.
The first tendered radio taxi in India, after Mumbai the company plans to shift focus to Delhi, Bengaluru and Hyderabad. By the end of this year the the company hopes to start its Delhi operations. TABcab is also starting priority booking services for the travel trade and corporate segments soon. “That is, if they want to book ten single cabs on a single day we can provide that, which is right now not possible as it is a public transport system, regulated and metered taxi,” he informs. Within the frame of regulations, the company is trying to accommodate the customised service demands of the travel trade and corporate segments.