Uber’s been in the eye of a storm recently over the government’s intervention in its operations. Its surge pricing has been banned in Karnataka and Delhi, but the reaction has been mixed – some people think that Uber’s an essential service and should be regulated, while others believe that being a private company, it should be allowed to operate as the market wills.
But a recent Uber response to a customer complaint could throw some interesting insights into the matter. When Amit Somani complained that drivers in Bangalore were refusing to go to the airport, Uber didn’t say that it would help out. The official Uber India handle replied thanked him for letting them know, and said that they hoped he’d find a ride soon. When Somani said that he had a flight to catch and he wanted them to do something about it, Uber came up with an astonishing response: they asked him to look for other means of transport.
This incident highlights why some people seem to be so uncomfortable about letting Uber run unsupervised. Commuting within a city is an essential necessity, much like a regular electricity and water supply. These basic services are highly regulated by the government, and this allows for some degree of accountability in case their reliability is found wanting. But with a private company in charge of something as basic as moving around a city, citizens have no one to turn to in case they wish to complain.
And Uber’s argument about looking for other means of transportation just makes things worse. Cab companies are now trying to own every aspect of the daily commute, right from cabs to bikes to shuttle buses. Uber’s also investing heavily in India, and it’s not inconceivable that one day it’s the only player in the industry. And then, its argument about looking for other means of transport will not hold much water.
And that is indeed a scary thought.