The Taxi Wars

The spat that’s making the headlines

The last few weeks have seen a very interesting debate between Ola and Uber, with Meru pitching in against Uber as well. Both debates, of Uber and the country’s law and that of it being a foreign company are pertinent to address. Having said that, the whole Make in India concept has helped MNCs come to India and do whatever they like, with the hope that as an MNC, they’ll perhaps be forgiven if need be.

The debate at hand mostly boils down to laws which holds local and foreign companies on the same balance. Both Ola and Meru outlined how Uber broke laws right from their entry into the Indian market, which ranges from the well-known avoidance of the 2-factor authentication to claims of Uber continuing to use Diesel vehicles in Delhi when the competition including Ola complied 100% with the Diesel ban and using only CNG vehicles.  The most recent spat is Uber’s petition in the high court challenging the authority of the state government to frame the rules under the Motor Vehicles Act. While everybody complied, Uber might have gotten away with this one as well.

Flaunting the law of the land is bad news for customers and the market as a whole because at the end of the day it is the general public- customers, drivers, their families, who stand to get affected. Kingfisher Airlines rings a bell?

Do all laws make sense? No, not at all. As a co-founder Hipcask, I know how frustrating and convoluted some laws can be. But unless it is through some miracle or a due legislative process, I cannot fathom getting around the rule. Is it important to follow rules even it comes at a price? Yes, because one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

It’s good to see Ola overcome the legal hurdles and operate within the framework set by the Government, which may not always make sense, or be the easiest or the most efficient way to grow. And that’s something I know first-hand; as a fellow entrepreneur and one who has built everything ground-up in this country, understand Ola’s agitation too, on the disadvantages wrong practices can bring to the business ecosystem overall.

At the end of the day, the law of the land has to be followed, whether you are a multibillion dollar company or a brand new start-up!  Businesses have a moral responsibility to work with and around the Govt. to evolve their industry. By not following the law of the land, an irresponsible business is saying that they do not need the Government at all!

It is in fact, desirable that local governments give special preference to local players, and on the other hand, be unforgiving to MNCs who flout. This is exactly what China has done over the past few decades and the results are houselhold names like Alibaba, Xiaomi, Tencent and many more! An open market shouldn’t be misconceived as a welcome note to take the law of the land for a ride.

On a separate note, in a rather bizarre incident with Uber recently, I had to resort to using the SOS button on the app. I did not get any response from Uber or the Police even after 4-5 attempts of using the SOS button. 

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