Shared taxi services in India from local player Ola and US based Uber are becoming more popular in metro areas like Bangalore. Although they have added to the traffic woes of Bangalore, these shared car services provide an informal public transportation method in a city that is lacking a lot of formal transportation other than slow buses and auto rickshaws.
Let's see how these services are catered for international visitors to India. We first tried to use Ola, the India shared car service which was heavily funded by Japan's SoftBank and China's Tencent.
We proceeded to download the Ola App from Google Play on the Google Pixel.
Unfortunately, you need a local India phone number to be able to use the Ola service, making it hard to use for visitors to India who don't have a local number.
We tried Ola on another phone that had already been set up, but again our experience wasn't positive. Unfortunately, the car that was assigned to pick us up from Ola showed very long wait times to get picked up and then eventually never showed up. Like with some of China's shared taxi services, this Ola driver probably ignored us and hoped that we would cancel the ride rather than getting penalized for being the ones to cancel a pickup.
With Uber, we found a lot more drivers available with a quicker pickup time than Ola.
Using our existing Uber account, we selected our credit card as the payment method and got into in a poor quality car that poorly represented Uber with a driver that didn't really speak English. When the trip was finished, the driver strongly demanded in limited English cash before we could leave the car and said that credit card payment was not acceptable even though that had been selected as the payment method.
We proceeded to file a complaint to Uber that the driver asked for cash on a non-cash trip.
However, we were surprised that Uber's response was that even though we paid twice (once to Uber by credit card, and once to the driver using cash), Uber could not offer any refund of the credit card payment made to them. Uber apparently offers no protection against either intentionally cheating or ignorant drivers in this type of situation.
Even though we didn't want to use Uber again after this experience, we were forced to given there aren't a lot of traditional taxi cars just driving around. This time we chose cash payment given our shaken faith with using credit cards to pay for Uber in India.
Uber delivers an outstanding premium service in the US, but using Uber in Bangalore was a totally different experience and quite damaging to the Uber brand. As Uber continues to expand overseas especially in developing economies, it certainly will face more challenges to maintain a quality product.
Using Ola or Uber in Bangalore still has ways to go to provide a consistently good user experience. Bangalore's severe traffic problems and lack of quality roads don't help the situation either.