This Indian Army Veteran Now Drives For Uber And Loves His Job

There are no fire drills, no banter in the barracks, and no majors to salute to. Chinnappa owns his work, choses the number of hours he works at and how much he wants to earn.

Meet Chinnappa, a 55 year old, ex army veteran who’s employed as an Uber cab driver in Bangalore under the Uber Fauji programme. Started late last year, Uber Fauji is an initiative by Uber that aims to give employment to ex servicemen.

Uber Fauji driver
Image: Uber for OfficeChai

Chinnappa worked in the Indian army as a Hawaldar and was deployed at several locations and under various army projects until 2013. After 19 long years in the army, Chinappa hung up his service boots and decided to come back to Bangalore to his family and 2 kids. Unable to find a job in a company or a government organization, Chinnappa’s post army life wasn’t easy. After a year of looking for jobs to no avail, he eventually started a taxi service for out of town trips. This was until Uber came along.

Even before the official launch of the Uber Fauji program, Uber got Chinnappa onboard as a driver. And since then there’s been no looking back for the serviceman. “Uber helped me when nobody else did. They took me in, trained me, and helped me get a respectable source of living.”, says Chinappa.

After a socially charged army job, does driving all day, without a boss or a team get too lonely I ask. “My customers keep me company all day. Some of them chit chat, while some of them choose to spend time on their phones instead. Either ways, it’s interesting.”

As is the case with other Uber drivers, Chinnappa believes that Uber enables him to be a master of his own employment. “It is more like my own business, than a job”, says Chinnappa referring to the option of choosing his own timings, days and hours of work with Uber. “While most days I start at 5am, I can choose to wake up at 10am if I want. I end the day at 11, but sometimes I just do an airport trip late night,  sleep in the cab and do a drop back in the morning.”, Chinnappa says.

Chinnappa lives with his family of 3 in Bangalore which includes his wife, and two sons – one of whom is studying in the 12th standard while the older one has recently started working with Accenture. “I just want to work enough to secure a good future for my kids and then I’ll just call it a day and move back to my native place Coorg”, he says.

While a 20 year old career in the army may be a far cry from a driving gig with Uber, Chinnappa believes that passion, hard work and a commitment to your employer is the key to doing both justice. “Just like the army, you need discipline to do any job well.  I can wake up at 10, or wrap up the day half day, or slack around, but I make sure I’m up at 5 everyday and work at least 10 hours a day, with plenty of rest in between.”

Chinnappa is also all praise for the Uber management and professionalism. “In the last 1.3 years, I have never faced any problem with Uber. My payments are transparent and payouts are timely. The customers too have been nice”, he says.

He may not be at the borders fighting for his country today, but Chinnappa surely helping move his countrymen around and is proud of his work, at that.

Uber’s Cat And Mouse Game With Bangalore Authorities Continues; More Bikes Seized

Uber’s cat and mouse game with the Bangalore Traffic authorities just refuses to end. One thought that Uber had one-upped the competition by branding itself as a ridesharing service in order to let its bike taxis run, but it turns out that Bangalore’s traffic cops have other plans – in a fresh round of activity, the Bangalore police has seized at least 15 bikes belonging to the company.

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“Uber does not have the requisite permission to operate bike taxis. After the raid last time, the company told us they will abide by rules, but they have restarted services,” said Narendra Holkar, joint commissioner at the Karnataka transport department. The vehicles impounded in the latest raid face the risk of having their registration suspended for at least three months, he added.

Uber had launched its bike taxis in Bangalore a month ago, and Ola had followed suit with the launch of its service hours later. Things had gone well for a few until until the Bangalore authorities had decided to intervene – they’d impounded over 80 bikes claiming that they did not have the requisite permits to operate in the city.

After the Bangalore authorities’ objections, Ola had complied and shut down its service, but Uber had come up with a masterstroke – it rebranded as a bike sharing service overnight. By not charging any service fees from either the drivers or the riders, Uber became just an intermediary to provide people a means to share rides, and hence its bikes could not be classified as taxis any more. 

But Bangalore’s authorities’ latest move might put Uber’s latest model into question. Bangalore is the only city where bike taxis have seen such opposition from the authorities – several bike taxi companies operate in Gurgaon, and Uber had launched its own bike taxi service there last week.

Ola Is Offering Free Rides In Kolkata In The Wake Of Flyover Collapse Accident

Ola cabs, India’s leading commutech startup is doing something heartening to help the community. In the wake of the tragic flyover collapse accident in the city that has killed over 10 people and has left many hundreds injured and stranded, Ola has offered to help in its own capacity. The company is offering free rides to people commuting on the affected routes.

The company which had an activity scheduled for the India Vs West Indies T20 World Cup match on social media has called it off to pay homage to the victims of the accident. Other than free rides, the company has removed peak pricing on all routes and also increased the number of rides in the city.

Uber Kolkata too has followed suit.

https://twitter.com/Uber_Kolkata/status/715493128745017345

This is not the first time Ola has come out to help out during time of distress. During the Chennai floods last year, the company had deployed boats to help rescue the stranded citizens, other than offering free rides and helping with transport of goods.  A bunch of other Indian startups had followed, each chipping in to help in their own ways, proving that billion dollar startups do give back to the community they thrive on.

Uber Launches Bike Taxi Service In Gurgaon

Uber’s announced that it will launch its bike taxi service, UberMOTO, in Gurgaon today. UberMOTO will work on Uber’s app, but will use bikes to ferry commuters around instead of cars.

The service is being launched in limited areas of Gurgaon and will operate between 7:30 am and 9:30 pm. UberMOTO promises to be much cheaper than conventional cabs, with a base fares fixed at Rs. 15 and charges of Rs. 3 per kilometer. There will be an additional charge of Rs. 1 per minute of the service used. 

Uber_Gurgaon-Coverage-Area_final version

Uber had earlier launched uberMOTO in Bangalore, but had seen its bikes being seized by the traffic authorities as it they didn’t have the necessary permits required to run bike taxis in the city. In order to circumvent this, Uber had cleverly rebranded its uberMOTO as a bike pooling service and had stopped charging service fee from riders. Uber has announced that it will not charge a service fee in Gurgaon either during the phase of its pilot run.

Unlike Bangalore, where bike taxis weren’t popular until Uber launched, Gurgaon is already home to a few bike taxi services.  Baxi has been running bike taxis in the city since December last year, and M-Taxi had launched its services soon after. But after the arrival of a well funded international player, it will be interesting to see how the bike taxi market evolves in the city.

 

Uber Is Using A Game To Recruit Engineers While They’re On A Ride

Uber may be in the news in India for allegedly defacing city infrastructure with its posters calling for drivers, but its recruiting tactics in the home country are getting noticed for the right reasons.

Uber’s employing a creative hack to lure engineers into applying to Uber. In certain areas in the US, the company randomly sends an invitation to a quick coding challenge while the person is on an Uber ride.

If they accept the test, Uber challenges the rider with three coding problems to solve, each with a 60-second countdown, and scores them based on their answers.

The unique recruiting tactic was brought to notice by an Uber user and Microsoft engineer Joshua Debner who was a part of Uber’s pilot.

The initiative is called “Code On The Road”, and according to Uber is a unique activity to spot and get great engineers to apply to Uber. Uber does not use a rider’s personal information like email address, company name or employment details, but rather sends the gaming invitation at random to users in areas that have a dense engineering population.

“The option to play gives interested riders the opportunity to show us their skills in a fun and different way – whether they code on the side or are pursuing a career as a developer.”, a company spokesperson told Business Insider. 

The recruiting hack by Uber is reminiscent of its Silicon Valley neighbour and investor Google which has been known to use many fun and creative ways to hire engineers. Apart from asking potential candidates to solve codes on billboards, Google is known to throw mysterious coding challenges while a user is using Google search on certain keywords.

Uber Accused Of Defacing Freshly Painted Pillars In Bangalore [Updated]

Uber’s been credited with playing a role in helping solve Bangalore’s massive commute problem.  By letting people share cars and putting idle cars to use, the company has taken vehicles off roads and kept Bangalore’s pollution levels under check. But it seems that not everything that the company does is for the public good.  

Pictures have surfaced of several Uber posters plastered haphazardly over a Bangalore flyover pillar. The posters bear the Uber logo and seem to be advertising its car and bike taxi services to drivers. 

Uber

What makes this worse is the flyover was painted by The Ugly Indian, a citizen activist group that cleans up and beautifies Bangalore’s walls and flyovers. The group comprises of ordinary Bangaloreans who take time out of their busy schedules and try to beautify Bangalore’s civic infrastructure for free. 

“300 pillars of Bengaluru’s flyovers have stayed poster-free for over 3 months now due to citizen efforts, and Uber decides to illegally advertise its services on the Anand Rao Circle Flyover. What a shame. We hope they understand the sentiment of the Bengaluru public and remove this poster immediately.”, said Ugly Indian on its Facebook page. 

Uber is no stranger to outdoor advertising and has been seen on billboards and hoardings around the city to popularise itself amongst potential drivers.

Uber billboard India
Image: OfficeChai team

But Uber’s latest campaign hasn’t gone down too well with ordinary citizens.

https://twitter.com/shreemanu/status/712923149239775232

We have contacted Uber for a clarification and will update the article when we hear from them.

Update: Uber has contacted OfficeChai and denied involvement in the activity. “We are so sorry to hear about this and share the community’s  disappointment with this act of damage to public property. Those of you who use our service know that we don’t do this kind of marketing. These posters use the wrong logo, contradict our brand guidelines and employ an ineffective not to mention illegal marketing strategy. We are investigating this on priority and WILL ensure that the individuals responsible for this act face the law.”, said Bhavik Rathod, GM South and West, Uber.

Uber Alleges Ola Employees Trying To Sabotage Its Business With Fake Accounts

There’s no love lost between Ola and Uber. Both companies are fiercely competing for a share of India’s lucrative cab hailing market, and have been engaging in price wars, advertising and the occasional jibe to get a leg up over the other. But if Uber is to be believed, things have just got a lot more serious.

Uber has approached the Delhi High Court alleging that Ola employees have been creating fake accounts on Uber to sabotage its operations. The company says that these fake accounts have been booking and immediately cancelling rides, leading to loss of revenue for the company.

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“Large number of fake accounts are being created by Ola which are then used to make false booking and cancellations using our application. This keeps our drivers busy and we have to bear the cancellation charges.” Rajiv Nayyar, counsel for Uber India told the court. Such false cancellations amounted to 8-10℅ of its total bookings, the company claimed.

Ola has denied all allegations and dubbed the move a media gimmick.

Ola and Uber have also engaged in a war of words over the last month. In March, Uber had launched its bike services in Bangalore, only to have Ola launch its own service in a city hours later. Earlier this week, Uber President Asia Eric Alexander had said the company is on the verge of overtaking Ola in India. “In January last year, we were at five per cent market share. Now, we are right at the edge of 50 per cent. Within next 30 days, we would beat them (Ola). We will surpass them very, very shortly”. Ola had shot back saying that its Micro category, which was introduced only last month, is already 50% of the sum total of Uber’s bookings in India, and it expects that the Micro category alone will overtake Uber’s entire business by the end of the month.

UberMOTO Cleverly Sidesteps Bangalore Govt. Ruling By Calling Itself A Bikepooling Service

 

Uber has some great technology, world class engineers, and a truly disruptive business idea. But these are not the reasons why it’s the world’s most valued startup. What makes Uber so successful is its sheer brazen audacity.

A few weeks ago, Uber and Ola had simultaneously launched their bike taxi services in Bangalore. Bangalore’s harried commuters’ joy was cut short though – two days after the launch, the Bangalore Transport Department had declared the service illegal, and had begun seizing bikes.

While Ola had meekly complied with the Bangalore Government’s directive and taken the Bike option off its app, Uber decided to do something completely different – it has rebranded UberMOTO  as a bikepooling service.

Uber has announced that it will not charge its riders any commission for rides on UberMOTO. By operating at a no-profit service, UberMOTO bikes cease to become taxis, and hence can’t be banned by the state government.

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“In the spirit of collaborating with the government, we have had extensive discussions with the relevant authorities over the past few days. Uber will not charge any service fee for the period of this pilot”, the company said in a statement. For good measure, Uber also played up the service as a public utility. “UberMoto essentially encourages ‘bikepooling’ and will help in decongesting city roads”, it said. 

The Karnataka government’s chief grouse with the bike taxis had been that under state laws, bikes can’t be used as taxis without proper permits. The government had also expressed concern about whether insurance would cover rides on these bikes.

But with its masterstroke, Uber has cleverly sidestepped all these discussions. It might not earn the commission from its bike rides, but its bikes will still zip across Bangalore and garner marketshare, while Ola’s bikes will sit in garages waiting for governmental approval.

“Always be Jugaading”, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had declared during his visit to India recently. And this is jugaad of the first order. 

Snapdeal May Soon Allow Uber Bookings On Its App

Looking to capture a bigger pie of Indian ecommerce that extends beyond retail, Snapdeal is reportedly in talks with commutech giant Uber.

If the partnership goes through, Snapdeal customers will be able to book an Uber ride through the Snapdeal app.

snapdeal uber partnership
(artist’s impression of the Snapdeal Uber integration)

Snapdeal, through its acquisition of Freecharge 2 years ago, already has brought telecom recharges, bill payments and a wallet into the fold. Though, this development comes close on the heels of Snapdeal integrating Zomato, Redbus and Cleartrip into the app through which a user can now book bus tickets, order food and make travel arrangements, other than shopping on Snapdeal’s etail platform, all on the same app. This was rolled out to a few select customers at first, and then to all. The Uber integration is also likely to follow the same model.  The Uber partnership will also be the first Indian – International partnership for Snapdeal.

Though the company is yet to make an official announcement on the Uber deal, the move fits perfectly in Snapdeal’s aim to become a one-stop- shop app, which lets its users do more than just shop for products, while for Uber, the deal might just provide a philip against local rival and cabs-app leader Ola, whom it claimed it can beat “in a month”. Curiously, Snapdeal’s co-founder was all praise for Ola recently.

Snapdeal is in a fierce competitive battle with local rivals Flipkart and Paytm, who too, are making big strides to go beyond e-tail. Flipkart recently launched a payment wallet, while Paytm has been on a rapid expansion spree with add-ons like bus and movie tickets, and most recently, flight bookings on its own app.

Interestingly both Snapdeal and Paytm are funded by Chinese ecommerce giant, Alibaba. Superapps are common in China, and it will be interesting to see if Alibaba will try to bring its country’s best practices to its investments in India.