Surge pricing debate: Question nobody asks


Surge pricing for taxi aggregators has been banned in Karnataka. While I have been reading the opinions of various people on different social media platforms on it, there are a few voices that are missing – taxi drivers. They’re the ones who really suffer from this ordeal, especially drivers who have bought cars on loan and work 14 to 15 hours continuously to complete enough trips to get a bonus.

It was in the news that in Bangalore  Uber and Ola cars were seized. Even the government of Maharashtra is thinking of coming up with legislature to ban surge pricing on  taxi aggregators.

In Delhi as well surge pricing is banned, many vehicles were seized. As a result if you are booking Uber/Ola from Noida or Gurgaon asking to travel to Delhi the drivers will ask you to cancel the trip. Mr Kejriwal said surge pricing equals “daylight robbery” and his government does not buy app based taxi aggregator arguments.

It’s not like surge pricing is new. It’s common practice and we have paid for it plenty of times before. Here are five examples.


  1. Happy Hour at your favorite pub: Why do they give you 1+1 beer during the afternoon? That is because they want to fill those tables and sell more. Remember, only drinks are free & hence restaurants makes enough from food to compensate on your beer/drinks offer.
  1. Airline reservation : Compare today’s fare to the fare next month. There will be a significant difference in price. Why do you book tickets in advance for your  destination? Is it because you’re getting a good deal from the airlines? The economic principle for supply and demand has existed for ages. We have paid premium fuel prices to black marketers selling fuel during strike. We have also paid 5-10 times more on onions a few years back because they were unavailable. Those who were not interested in paying the price for it ended up without having it in their plate.
  1. Your favorite band’s show :  Take example of any event you like, they have early bird tickets, almost half the price of the real ticket.
  1. Technology conferences : Tech big shots come here and talk about recent trends or make a product launch {Apple/Google events?}]  The early bird access you love? That’s surge pricing
  1. IRCTC Tatkal tickets:  Why are you paying almost double for booking same tickets 48 hours in advance and end up paying start to end destination fare?

These drivers are poor, which means that they don’t have a Twitter presence and are not competent enough to participate in hour long debates on various news channels [english/hindi/regional]. Is that why they are losing?

We should be changing the lives of these drivers instead of making them lose their incomes. Some may even be ridden with debt, because they took loans, migrated to Bangalore away from living with their families – and instead living inside their cars (true story).  


Instead of debating surge pricing, we should have been pondering over :-

  1. Why do car aggregators only pay 30-40% of the surge money they make to those poor drivers?
  2. What kind of health benefits are these drivers getting? Are taxi aggregators giving any health insurance?  
  3. How can we empower the families of these drivers so they can raise kids and family in better and more empowered ways?
  4. How can we stop local authorities,  police and administration from harassing them?