Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Security issues threaten to define Uber in India

Will real and perceived security issues define Uber in India?
creative commons image by scrolleditorial on flickr
by Todd Romaine

Shiv Kumar Yadav, a Uber taxi driver from India accused of raping a passenger this past week, had a history of this same charge three years ago but was acquitted. Whether or not this man is guilty or not, Uber has now been banned in India as a result of its lack of proper security protocol.

More broadly, however, there are numerous actors lobbying governments to shut Uber down and rely on the existing licensed operators versus the more convenient taxi booking app that allows more availability and reduced fares for commuters. They are undoubtedly using this recent example as a broad stroke risk for allowing Uber market entry, even though they are numerous rape cases involving licensed traditional taxis which never warrant calls to shut down the entire taxi service for not properly vetting proper employees.

Truth be told, in most parts of the world, taxi operators are not the most ethical, law abiding and moral individuals. Many have spent time in jail or have had issues with the police. The profession, to many, is a last resort or a recurring opportunity to swindle people.

Obviously, there is natural sensitivity in India over the maltreatment of women and, as such, if Uber is creating unfavourable conditions for these events to continuously unfold, then their tenure in India will be short lived.

Uber was quick to defend itself as being responsible and that perhaps the issue has more to do with India’s lack of background checks in the commercial transportation licensing program. Needless to say, a new entrant that can seemingly skirt regulation (licensing), as well as impact existing monopolies, will face an uphill battle.

Ironically, it is the lack of regulation in the internet sector that will make it difficult for the Government of India to prevent people from using their smartphone to hailing a taxi through Uber. 

While this situation is most unfortunate, and lobby groups will attempt to maximize the fear as a mechanism to push out competition, Uber et al. will continue to make their advance on a growing market trend that is having major seismic impacts on how we hail a taxi. The Government of India should continue with reforms to ensure women are able to enjoy a safe existence in all aspects of life, but throwing Uber under the proverbial bus for one unfortunate incident would be regrettable.

Related Resources
Delhi to ban all internet taxi firms after Uber rape claim
In defense of Uber in India - Fortune
Uber provides the taxi industry a good kick in the pants

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