Just after three days of its launching in Dhaka, the road transport regulatory authority of the country declared Uber as illegal and warned its drivers and clients against using the service. Meanwhile, a driver of the service expressed concerns about the future of Uber in Bangladesh.
After knowing that Uber officially launched in Dhaka, I immediately felt an urge to experience it. So, after finishing my work in Jhigatola in one fine afternoon, I installed Uber app on my smartphone and requested for a car. The app looked for available vehicles for a few seconds and found one waiting in front of the New Market in Dhaka. Within two minutes of sending the request, the driver called me for confirmation. He asked my current location, my destination and told me that he would need 15 to 20 minutes to come to my address.
I was feeling pretty hungry and got 20 minutes to waste. So, my friend Shajib and I went to a restaurant nearby and ordered some fast food. The driver called me again in a few minutes and informed me that he is almost close to the address I gave him. Hopefully, we were also done eating. We came out of the restaurant and saw an excellent Toyota car waiting for us on the street. The driver opened the door, and we took our seats in it. My vehicle was fantastic! What else can someone ask for if he gets a smooth ride with AC on and soft cushion while traveling on the busy streets of Dhaka city? The driver touched somewhere on his smartphone, and the voice navigation started. It kept saying which turn to take and how far the destination is throughout the entire journey.
To pass the time, I started talking with the driver. Here’s a glimpse of the conversation I had with him during the ride.
How did you know about Uber?
Driver: Uber made deals with some third party companies in Bangladesh. Like, online based taxi and rent-a-car services.
So, this vehicle is mainly from a rent-a-car company, right?
How many passengers do you get on average in a day?
Well, Uber’s still new in Bangladesh… So far, I got two passengers yesterday and three today.
What did you do before you started working for Uber?
I drove cars of different restaurant owners.
The Uber navigation system looks interesting! It’s providing you with every direction. Do you strictly need to follow it?
Not actually. If you think that you need to change your destination or stop somewhere between the trip to grab something, you can do that. I will go anywhere you want to go.
What about the fare?
I don’t know how it works. It shows the fare after reaching the destination. But it’s not too much. It’s equal to the CNG fares in Dhaka. Sometimes a little bit more. To be honest, the company is in a little bit loss right now.
The rent-a-car company?
Yes. Sometimes even our gas costs don’t get covered with the fare it shows!
What do your two days of experience tell you? Do you prefer Uber or Rent-a-car?
It’s difficult to assume something with only two days of experience. But I think if they continue like this then they won’t be able to survive in Bangladesh. If they increase the fare a little bit, then they might survive. This car requires four times more gas than a CNG. But the fare is equal to the fare of a regular CNG. Maybe they are just trying to attract people by taking lower fare at first. Who knows? They may increase the fare once people get to know that there’s a company named Uber who are providing quality taxi service at a lower cost.
Are your passengers satisfied with this fare?
Off course! No one complained till now. I took someone from Uttara 12 Sector to Gulshan 1 today. The fare was only 370 taka. People usually need to pay 300/350 Taka when they take a CNG.
Did you know about Uber before it came to Bangladesh?
No. I never heard of it before. Now I hear that this is an international company. One of my passengers yesterday was an army officer. He told me that Uber is very popular in abroad. They use Uber when they go abroad.
Are you satisfied with the amount Uber pays you?
Do you need to pay any amount to the owner from what you get from Uber?
Then why aren’t you satisfied?
Look, I got four trips today. But within those four trips, I had to travel around the entire Dhaka city. I went to Gulshan, then Rampura, then New Market. In the middle, I had to go to Jamuna Future Park. You know how much traffic jam we have in Dhaka. The company won’t be able to continue with this fare. And the gas cost is included within the amount Uber is giving me. That’s the biggest problem. If they could give me a separate sum of money for gas price, then things would have been better.
Does Uber give you a percentage of the trip?
No. They give me 2000 taka per day.
So, you get 2000 taka for no matter how many trips you make?
Yes. If I have only one trip, then I will get 2000 taka. If I have ten trips, then I would also get 2000 taka. Making more trips is not profitable for me. Because I need to pay for gas from that 2000 taka. That’s why I told earlier that it would be better if they could give a separate amount of money for gas. I could drive tense-free. Now I feel tensed whenever I get a taxi request.
3 days after launching in Dhaka, Uber has been declared illegal by Bangladeshi government transport authority: https://t.co/kxvWM6kbcg
— Zara Rahman (@zararah) November 25, 2016
Do you get this 2000 taka directly from Uber?
Is there a direct way to transfer money?
No. Uber give it to the rent-a-car company, and they give it to me.
You told me that you visited the entire Dhaka city today. How was your gas bill?
I’m in lots of tension today. They could at least take fare like “Toma Taxi.”
Do you mean that “Toma Taxi” costs more than Uber?
Yes. They cost way more!
Can you check the fare while in between the trip?
No. I can check it once I get to the destination. If I press this button in the bottom right corner, it will calculate the fare. Just look at the fare once we reach the destination. You will get what I’m trying to say.
When does the fare counter starts? From the moment we requested the taxi or from the time we entered?
I started it when you entered the cab. I don’t have any benefit if I start it before you get in. The money will go directly to Uber. I’m not going to get anything from this.
Are you getting any other facilities from Uber except that 2000 taka per day?
Not yet. But I heard that Uber provides bonus after every month. If a driver receives every phone calls and behaves well with the passengers, then it rewards him with some bonus.
I finally reached my destination. The driver touched somewhere on his cell phone, and it showed 274 Taka. My phone also gave me a notification saying that I received an email from Uber. It was the same amount. Uber automatically fixed a round figure of 270 Taka. If I take a CNG, then I need to pay 200/250 taka after having some hard bargain with the driver. I paid the amount to the driver in cash and said farewell. Uber asked me to give a rating to the driver. I gave five out of five. In a city where all CNG drivers say, “Ii won’t go” whenever we need them, it’s tough to find a wise and friendly driver like him. I didn’t mention the name or other details of the driver, as he preferred to stay anonymous.
Have you tried Uber in Dhaka? Write your experience below.