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How The Agenda of Safety First Can Change The Game For Ride-hailing Companies Ride-hailing services are digging their heels in India but unless security is ensured, commuters won't avail it

By Aastha Singal

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A decade ago, the concept of booking taxis for long or short distance travels wasn't a regular practice. More so sharing a vehicle with strangers was more or less a foreign concept, unlike today when ride-sharing has become an everyday activity for working professionals and travellers. The convenient mode of transportation has become an inseparable part of our lives.

However, convenience comes at a cost. Every time one gets into a ride with a driver and other passengers, there is gnawing feeling embedded in the depths of his/her heart anticipating their criminal background. There have been multiple cases of sexual assault by cab drivers in the past to certify this fear as not baseless. Even today, safety remains a major concern.

While global movement combating the female abuse like Me Too has penetrated the Indian borders, citizens still harbour major reservations over the safety regulations of ride-hailing platforms. Uber and Ola are the most sought after ride-hailing platforms in India and both have faced their share of accusations for compromising the safety of their passengers.

Taking the cue from increasing voices against their conduct, both have strengthened their respective driver screening processes and introduced emergency assistance apps for their customers. Uber had started monitoring drivers for criminal offences in real-time a while back whereas Ola recently launched a similar system to further strengthen ride safety of its customers on the platform.

The recent times have witnessed regular commuters inclining towards ride-sharing instead of booking an individual cab for obvious economic reasons but the sense of safety that arrives upon covering long distances with others is another factor which can't be ignored. Entrepreneur India talked to some major ride-sharing platforms to understand how customer safety has become their priority:

Bus to Office?

For the majority of office goers, a journey in taxis, cabs and carpools is a daily grind but the recent times have witnessed a drastic shift in commuters' preference of shared mobility services over ride–sourced taxis. A World Resources Institute study accredited the trend to the stronger sense of safety that arrives upon travelling in numbers.

A number of "office to home' bus services have started exploring the field and are receiving ample opportunities and options. Many of these platforms are leveraging the emerging technologies to ensure customer safety. Shuttl being one of the most utilized new age smart transportation services ensure to deliver security through technology, process & policy.

"For passenger safety, we have initiated safety features such as Share-Ride (passenger ride details can be shared with 3 emergency contact numbers provided by passenger); Home-Check, SOS, Customer Care for Grievance Handling to ensure safety throughout the lifecycle of the passenger's journey," shared Shuttl's co-founder & CEO, Amit Singh.

Safety Assurance

For any ride-hailing company, ignoring the safety of passengers could prove to be detrimental as when the red line of safety is crossed, the consequences are impossible to rectify. It takes years for a company to earn the trust of customers but one unfortunate incident is enough to blotch up their market image and growth.

Ride-sharing is one way of saving the money, making friends and feeling secure altogether. However, Indians still feel more confident while travelling in auto rickshaws and finding one just stepping out of work is far from where the reality lies. Nonetheless, platforms like Jugnoo come in a situation like these to rescue the commuters from much trouble by providing on the go auto services with ensured safety.

"Users have access SOS emergency button and emergency tracking option as a safety measure, improved auto location tracking feature with animated auto movement, single tap booking and cancelling feature and 24/7 in-app customer support is also available," said Jugnoo's Public Relations Manager, Manpreet Kaur.

Travelling Together

Finding a commute in populated cities like Delhi and Gurugram could be a task for the working class if they are not travelling via a personal vehicle. Then too, reaching their house could take them hours due to the impending traffic issues associated with Indian metropolis. To tackle the issue of travel, boredom and safety altogether, Sameer Khanna found Orahi back in 2012.

Orahi represents a community of people who have come together to solve their daily problem of commuting. The platform uses emerging technologies like artificial intelligence to identify the group of people who can travel together. The platform connects people from nearby localities going in the same direction.

"People who we are connecting with them are people who are staying very close to their house and work close to their office. So, the socially economic value is essentially very similar because people who can afford a house near yours are financially at the same level. Their cultural values and social values are also very similar," stated Orahi CEO Sameer Khanna.

Women Safety

While no one, irrespective of the gender, is entirely safe from mentally retarded predators lurking in every corner of the country waiting for a cue to strike at the vulnerable traveller, women, in particular, have been at the receiving end of major crimes. Mobility service providers have been going out of their way to ensure that females feel secured while travelling with them.

"Shuttl has combined technology and shared mobility to enhance women's access to safe transport and related economic and social opportunities. The fact that more than 35% of our commuters are women is a testament that they feel safer riding in Shuttl," added Singh.

However, it is not only a platform's responsibility to keep its passengers safe. Every person, irrespective of his/her mode of transportation should hold the reins of his own security by staying alert. "One must secure and keep an eye on all of your belongings and maintain a high level of alertness, avoid the routes you are not so familiar with. First, check if the vehicle number and driver name match and last but not the least, keep a pepper spray handy," suggested Kaur.

Unlike what majority of third-generation parents believe, women are not as comfortable with another one of the same sex as they are in the company of males. Orahi offers a women- only group service which is hardly utilized as women don't like to travel together. Period.

Driver Screening

In ride-hailing space, the driver's credibility and discipline determine the entire journey experience for a commuter. No one knows the man or women driving the car, bus or auto personally but it is the trust towards the platform that helps them in getting into the vehicle without reluctance. To ensure the continuity of customer's confidence in their service, the platforms must ensure a sincere and standard driver screening process.

"Drivers should go through real-name registration and the platform should verify the identity and personal information of the drivers and passengers using their service in accordance with regulations. Also, stepping up background checks on its drivers can help to a great extent," Kaur suggested.

To ensure commuters safety and hassle-free services, the ride-sharing platforms are leaving no stone unturned. From ensuring that driver has a clean background to training him according to organization's policies, they certify that all paths are free of hurdles. "We undertake frequent training sessions, refreshers every three months to ensure that the drivers comply with the traffic rules and regulations and other road safety measures," Singh added.

Orahi follows a long security procedure to ensure the credibility of a commuter is well established before he travels with others. The platform prompts the customers to confirm their company details, phone number, Aadhaar number, further enhancing the ride's safety. "People travelling alone for hours are frustrated and feel unsafe in comparison to them travelling with others," Khanna opined.

Aastha Singal

Entrepreneur Staff

Former Features Writer

A business journalist looking to find happiness in the world of startups, investments, MSMEs and more. Officially started her career as a news reporter for News World India, Aastha had short stints with NDTV and NewsX. A true optimist seeking to make a difference, she is a comic junkie who'd rather watch a typical Bollywood masala than a Hollywood blockbuster. 

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