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Old 12th June 2014, 16:32   #1
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Default Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service

At one time, your only taxi option was painted black & yellow. Luxury arrived in the nineties with air-conditioned 'cool cabs' wearing blue & silver clothes. Then came the radio taxi services (Meru, TabCab, Mega Cabs etc.) promising convenience & better cars (Logans vs Padminis). The next wave of superior cabs is from Uber, a revolutionary service that has disrupted the taxi business in many markets worldwide.

Also competing in this premium segment are Ola Cabs and Meru Plus (Meru's premium offering).

So, how does Uber work?

Uber (headquartered in USA) is a premium cab service, now operating in various Indian cities. Uber itself doesn't own any cars at all. Rather, it has tie-ups with local car rental agencies. All cabs that I've called were basically from companies offering their excess capacity to Uber. Remember, an idle vehicle & driver still cost their company $$$. One driver claimed to be making 6 - 7 trips on his 'Uber' days with a 12 hour shift.

Download the Uber App on your smartphone, register, feed in your credit card details and you're all set. Whenever you need a cab next, fire up the App. It'll automatically detect your current location and also show you the nearest cab's expected arrival time (ETA). Yes, you can cancel the booking at no charge if it's within 5 minutes.

Here's my review after using Uber nearly 20 times since their Mumbai launch.

What you’ll like:

+ One of the biggest draws of Uber is undoubtedly the kind of cars they arrange for you. Take a look at this Uber BMW that came to pick us up. We've been sent everything from a Honda Accord and Toyota Fortuner to a BMW 5-Series and the mighty Mercedes S-Class! The lowest Uber we've ridden in is the Innova (although Mod Ajmat ended up in a cramped Fiesta once).
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+ Quick & simple booking process via the smartphone App. No dialing or waiting to be attended by a call center executive. I must add that the Meru taxi App is pretty good too (link).

+ No need to have cash or the exact change on you. At the end of your trip, your card is automatically charged online and a receipt emailed to you.
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+ Extremely courteous drivers (9 out of 10 times). Mom - a senior citizen - is all praises for Uber. Not only do they open the door for her, but they also unfailingly park at just the right spot, so she doesn't have to walk too much. We had some inconsistency with our full-time driver in April-May; his absence didn't bother the women at all.

+ Cheaper than owning a 2nd / 3rd car in the house, if you consider the total cost of ownership (article link) and in some cases, the chauffeur's salary too.

+ The same rates for day & night service. This is unlike radio taxi services which charge a premium after midnight (example).

+ Tax deductible if used for & shown as a business expense. Only applicable to companies & the self-employed.

+ If you've booked an Uber cab for someone else (say old people, women or kids), you can keep an eye on their real-time location via the smartphone app.

+ Arguably safer than other alternatives. Better cars (safer build & features) and trained drivers. I'd prefer Uber at late night & when family members require a taxi.

+ Internationally, Uber recruits individual drivers as well. In India, they've only tied up with professional rental agencies. This is definitely a smart move, considering the dynamics of our market and the law & order situation.

What you won't like:

- Mostly (60% of the time in my experience), you'll end up with an Innova or Altis. From what I've seen, the premium Europeans are available only during the day (morning - afternoon bookings).


- Noticeably more expensive than a typical radio taxi service, and a lot more than black & yellow cabs. This is especially so when the travel duration is long. Example: for a Dadar - Churchgate commute during rush hours (60 minutes & 14 kms), Uber will charge me Rs. 458. A Meru would cost Rs. 287 only. Uber is cheaper per km, but a base fare of 100 & the Rs. 2 / minute fee makes it more expensive. The more time you rent it for, the higher the premium. On the other hand, the difference is slim for the same trip at late night (30 minutes); Rs. 398 for Uber vs 359 for Meru. I've used Uber several times after nights out and the difference is negligible.

- In addition to the previous point, there is no 'running meter' in the car (like other cabs have). You don't know your trip cost until you reach your destination. That said, Uber does offer a 'fare quote' feature which gives you an estimated price range.

- You can't book a car much in advance and there's no 'fixed time' pickup either. Got an early morning flight? Need a pickup at a fixed time? It's probably better to book a traditional radio taxi service in that case. With Uber, you can book a cab in real-time only and the pickup time varies from 5 - 60 minutes. Uber is sometimes really fast to arrive, and awfully slow at others. Reminds me of this one time that the Uber App displayed an ETA of 10 minutes; too early as I'd yet to get dressed. After my shower, the App tells me the nearest car is 42 minutes away! It's difficult to plan in advance with them. There have been situations where I'd wanted an Uber cab, but ended up in a radio taxi / black & yellow instead.
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- Unrealistic ETA. Uber doesn't seem to account for traffic conditions!! Consider the screengrab below. At 1926 hours (i.e. rush hour traffic), Uber claims that its taxi can travel from Saki Naka to the Dadar pickup location in 22 minutes. Unless that particular car wore wings, I can assure you it's impossible.
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- Another disadvantage is that the ETA can increase after you book a cab! When we called for an Uber car to drive us to the airport, the ETA initially showed 5 minutes. Well, 5 minutes later, it increased to 20! I reiterate, it's hard to plan with Uber. Booking their cabs is a hit or miss.

- Fairly unreliable during peak hours. I've seen this message more often than I should have from a company providing premium-priced services:
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- A whopping 200 rupee cancellation fee if you hit the 'cancel' button after 5 minutes of booking.

- You can't specify the type of car you need. For example, if there is a group of 5 adults travelling, you can't ask for an Innova only.

- The amount that eventually shows up on your credit card statement is a bit higher (in the single digits) than what the Uber receipt says. This is probably due to Uber using an international payment gateway and the forex conversion rates used by local credit card companies? Either way, it's an annoyance at the time of tallying my credit card statement with my accounting software.

Overall, I'd give Uber a score of 7.5 out of 10. When I'd initially started using their service, it was a solid 10/10. However, after seeing their performance in varying conditions, some cracks started to show. I'll give Uber a 'good' rating, but certainly not 'excellent'.

Old Uber Thread (now closed):

Link (Uber smartphone taxi-hailing app makes inroads into India)

Last edited by GTO : 16th June 2014 at 09:29. Reason: Additional point
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Old 12th June 2014, 21:47   #2
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Default Re: Uber smartphone taxi-hailing app makes inroads into India

Tried Uber for the first time today, in Bangalore. Requested a car at the top floor of a mall. Immediately took lift down (the lift took a couple of minutes to arrive) and exited, and the car was there less than a minute later. Well-maintained and comfortable Innova. Cost INR 381 for a distance of about 12km, a bit steep maybe compared to regular taxis, but certainly convenient and comfortable, courteous, no fuss. Will use again.
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Old 12th June 2014, 21:57   #3
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Default Re: Uber smartphone taxi-hailing app makes inroads into India

I used one again today. Unless you want to get stuck in traffic, a taxi is the only way to get back quickly via the backroads.

Was chatting with the driver. They seem to be happy with Uber since they get a proper work-life balance. The bulk of the income is during the weekend.
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Old 13th June 2014, 13:50   #4
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Default Re: Uber smartphone taxi-hailing app makes inroads into India

I got a promotion mailer from Uber informing me about the Uber-Chopper! The deal that they are offering is simply amazing in my opinion.
They take you to Mahalaxmi in an uber cab,
You get a 30-min ride in a chopper giving you Mumbai's aerial view,
and the best part is food at Tote! all of this at 4999 for 2 people.!

Also found this on their website,
"New to Uber? Click here to download the app and just enter the promo code “UberCHOPPER” and get Rs. 500 off UberCHOPPER or your first Uber ride!"

So the first timers can get the ride at Rs.4500 for 2 with food and taxi service door-to-door!

Last edited by GTO : 14th June 2014 at 10:44. Reason: Moving to new thread
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Old 13th June 2014, 15:15   #5
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

Interesting transit service there and good review. From what I understand, the type of car they send is like a lottery pick depending on which one is nearby and the rates for all is uniform? Also the cancellation fee seems a bit steep. The benefit is obviously the night travel which is of the same cost as the day one.

They got to have the arrival time and pickup time spot-on with their estimates, otherwise it'll be a dicey occasion for travellers to the airport. The reason why I think they sometimes delay or cancel out is because they may get more enquiries from nearer clients and they update that information and re-route the taxis to the new clients address, while sending another cab to the client who had booked before. To prevent this, even though it may not be as cost-efficient for them they should confirm the orders on first come first served basis and not look to shave costs on a few km. The Rs.200/- cancellation charge seems too steep.. suppose they arrive late and the client has to get going it would mean by cancelling his card would automatically be deducted from. I understand it is a premium service but they could try having lesser conditions and charge based purely on distance travelled, albeit extra.
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Old 13th June 2014, 15:27   #6
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

Honestly, doesnt make a lot of sense in Bangalore. Simple reason - cant book in advance. And my experience has shown its unavailable 9 times out of 10 i tried to book. A better bet is Ola which has a similiar app and cheaper.
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Old 13th June 2014, 15:31   #7
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

Quote:
Originally Posted by dark.knight View Post
They got to have the arrival time and pickup time spot-on with their estimates, otherwise it'll be a dicey occasion for travellers to the airport. The Rs.200/- cancellation charge seems too steep.. suppose they arrive late and the client has to get going it would mean by cancelling his card would automatically be deducted from. I understand it is a premium service but they could try having lesser conditions and charge based purely on distance travelled, albeit extra.
I've had an instance where the ETA was 9 minutes and then went to 45 minutes. I was going to miss my flight so I took a screenshot, cancelled the booking, found a black-and-yellow, reached the airport to find my flight delayed by an hour. While in the bumpy old Padmini, I got an SMS saying my credit card had been charged 200 rupees.

I sent them an email explaining what had happened (albeit an angry one) and they promptly reversed the credit card charge as well as gave me a 300 rupee credit without any further followup. Now we just need to see how this works long term.
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Old 13th June 2014, 15:37   #8
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

And Uber is offering a chopper ride to it's Mumbai customers this sunday (saturday for Bangalore) on the occasion of Father's Day for Rs. 4,999 which includes pick and drop from home to chopper base, chopper flight and a brunch for 2 people at a fancy place.
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Old 13th June 2014, 15:49   #9
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

Quote:
- Mostly (60% of the time in my experience), you'll end up with an Innova or Altis. From what I've seen, the premium Europeans are available only during the day (morning - afternoon bookings).
I used Uber in Hyderabad about 2 months back, and I remember the iPhone App having a slider at the bottom.
It ranges from Uber on the right to Uber Luxury if you drag the slider to extreme left. Uber Luxury, should guarantee a Volvo atleast.

Is it not the same anymore ?

I was sent a Volvo S60 and had a good experience.
Uber have added chopper tours in Mumbai and Bangalore, I was hoping for it to be a chopper taxi. Mumbai needs it desperately
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Old 14th June 2014, 10:55   #10
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

Quote:
Originally Posted by rsidd View Post
Tried Uber for the first time today, in Bangalore. Requested a car at the top floor of a mall. Immediately took lift down (the lift took a couple of minutes to arrive) and exited, and the car was there less than a minute later.
When Uber works, it works really well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dark.knight View Post
From what I understand, the type of car they send is like a lottery pick depending on which one is nearby and the rates for all is uniform?
Yep, same rates for all cars. In the USA, they have different slabs for economy, luxury etc.

Quote:
The reason why I think they sometimes delay or cancel out is because they may get more enquiries from nearer clients and they update that information and re-route the taxis to the new clients address, while sending another cab to the client who had booked before.
Nope, they don't reroute your cab once booked. You get the car's make & model, registration number & the driver's cell no upon confirmation.

Quote:
The Rs.200/- cancellation charge seems too steep.. suppose they arrive late and the client has to get going it would mean by cancelling his card would automatically be deducted from.
True.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ethanhunt123 View Post
A better bet is Ola which has a similiar app and cheaper.
Will definitely try Ola out sometime.

Quote:
Originally Posted by djpeesh View Post
I've had an instance where the ETA was 9 minutes and then went to 45 minutes.

I sent them an email explaining what had happened (albeit an angry one) and they promptly reversed the credit card charge as well as gave me a 300 rupee credit without any further followup.
They certainly handled the situation properly. However, it would greatly help matters if their ETA was realistic in the first place.

Quote:
Originally Posted by deepcdc View Post
I used Uber in Hyderabad about 2 months back, and I remember the iPhone App having a slider at the bottom.
It ranges from Uber on the right to Uber Luxury if you drag the slider to extreme left. Uber Luxury, should guarantee a Volvo atleast.

Is it not the same anymore ?
Not here, haven't seen any separate 'luxury' option on my Android.
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Old 14th June 2014, 15:02   #11
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

I think they are employing a fantastic marketing and promotional strategy to enter into a new market like ours. Offering an uber-luxe car at the price of a normal yellow-black or even other modern cabs is something that will easily entice the customer and is enough to bring them into the bigger picture and we're seeing just that.

What seems to set them apart from other players are features like : -
-Cashless transactions
-Well mannered drivers
-Same day/night charges

-And the chances of getting a Luxury experience if luck is by one's side!
However, it would have been simply phenomenal had this been their sole USP. I seriously doubt that it is going to be the case, considering it might not be viable to operate at such costs and the difficulties in outsourcing the business due to low number of travel operators with yellow-board luxury cars, once the business traffic increases. Also, they already have separate categories viz. Economy & Luxury in the US market.

So, if the present price scenario were to be seen as 'Introductory', and we see them also resorting to Fiestas, Dzires, etc. in the future (which we have already begun to see), then how do they differentiate themselves from others?
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Old 14th June 2014, 18:07   #12
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

Quote:
Originally Posted by deepcdc View Post
I used Uber in Hyderabad about 2 months back, and I remember the iPhone App having a slider at the bottom.
It ranges from Uber on the right to Uber Luxury if you drag the slider to extreme left. Uber Luxury, should guarantee a Volvo atleast.

Is it not the same anymore ?
Quote:
Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Not here, haven't seen any separate 'luxury' option on my Android.
That was a 2 day promotion (at least in Hyderabad, no idea about other cities) wherein they offered the slider facility and divided the vehicles into categories called black (altis and innova) and luxury (merc, bmw, mini cooper, volvo, etc.).

The slider was active only for 2 hours on each of those 2 days between 12 noon and 2 pm and all luxury vehicles booked were free to the customer as long as the ride did not last more than 45 minutes (45 minutes is good enough to literally cross the city).
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Old 14th June 2014, 19:36   #13
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

With all the pros and cons being discussed already, I really wonder what's stopping Uber from launching 'Fixed Time' cabs or at least being able to book a car 2 hours in advance.

Considering Indian traffic conditions (aka chaos) this is how I see Uber Vs Meru.

1. Day Time/Peak hours/Airport Trips -- Meru.
The Mobile App works brilliantly.
If there are any issues in the booking the customer care rep is just a call away. Bring in the latest high tech or whatever but nothing beats talking to a human and sorting any issue.
The cars in Chennai atleast are new and well maintained.
Having a standard fleet of sedans is sigh of relief. I hate Indicas to the core. Manza is ok though

Once, I book an Uber cab for a round trip from Home - Kid's school - Home. The Uber driver clicks something on his phone and the trip is completed at the school. What happened next is the most ridiculous thing in my opinion.
Driver calls me, asks me to book another trip from school to home and only then he can start the trip. Imagine me being at office, I had to use the app, drag the pick up location from my office to the school and ask for the 'Black Car'.
Needless to say I ended up paying more because of being charged the base fare twice.

2. Late night trips/Women or children travelling to a rather new place - Uber.
The drivers are the most courteous ones I've ever seen.
Talking of cabs how can we forget the non-rash driving? Every time I'm pleased to see the Uber driver not lugging the engine.


Note:
I've used Meru and Easy cabs in Gurgaon for about a week in April this year. WORST maintained and driven. The interiors were the equivalent of ill maintained city transport buses. The lesser said about the drivers and their grooming.
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Old 14th June 2014, 20:51   #14
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

Great service at a fantastic price. A boon for those who dont want to drink and drive and also dont want to let their cars be handled by the drivers offered.

Great boon for women. book a taxi on your phone for a woman friend/relative and One can track the movement of the vehicle as it moves to the point. Safe!!

Marginally more expensive than Meru and other cabs offered but if you see the premium cars that offer their services, thats squared off.

Extremely convenient and the meter starts when you sit in the vehicle and not when it starts from Point A to fetch you.

I started using this when i was in Delhi a few months ago and didnt want to drive. Was told by my brother in law about this and had downloaded the app even though the service had not started in Bombay as yet. Impressed, a Fortuner came to fetch me and on my way back, a BMW 5 series, i couldnt believe it.

Then used the service many times and have experienced only the best of services.
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Old 14th June 2014, 20:55   #15
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Default re: Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service *EDIT: Banned in Delhi, Telangana, Thailand & Spain*

My second Uber experience today after this (Review: Uber Premium Taxi Service) two days ago. From a different part of town (Sampige road the first time, Church street today) I got the same car, same driver! Makes me wonder how many Uber cars are actually in Bangalore -- ie, what are the odds of getting the same guy? He took a bit longer to arrive today and for about 10 minutes the app kept updating the time in the 2-4 min range, but that may have been traffic. He needed to drop me off Bellary road but mistakenly took the elevated road to the airport at Hebbal and I noticed just a few moments too late; he was properly apologetic, turned off the trip meter at the next exit (Yelahanka, a short distance beyond where he should have turned at the lower level), and made the return trip and drop without charge.

I asked him how Uber was for him. He said "not good, not bad." I said, not better than other taxi companies, then? He quickly said no, no, much better. He does about 10 trips a day, I guess he wishes for more, but he probably earns more per trip and gives a much smaller cut to Uber...

By the way, the bill on my previous trip (from Sampige road) said I got picked up at Bannerghatta road, at least 10 km away! But the distance calculation (GPS-based) was correct.
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