ISLAMABAD: Careem Captains in Islamabad have launched a boycott campaign against GO Mini rides, the scribe has learned from reliable sources.
Careem had launched a new category “GO Mini” on February 12, 2018 in three cities including Lahore, Gujranwala and Islamabad that offered rides on lower rates.
The minimum fare on GO Mini is Rs.75 as compared to Rs.120 on GO category.
When inquired about the reason for the boycott, it was learnt that Careem Mini rides were only supposed to be sent to Captains having cars such as 1990-2001 Mehran, Santro FX and Khyber. However, Captains owing cars such as 2014-2017 model Wagon R and Japanese made cars have also been receiving Careem Mini rides.
“My car is registered for Careem Go that has higher rates. How can I take my 15 lac car to pick a cheaper ride on Go Mini,” remarked one Careem captain.
On the other, when Captains complained to Careem management, they were told that they would get the actual fare for Careem Go even if they picked Careem Mini rides.
However, the captains did not seem interested in trusting the words of the management. One Captain said: “They are enticing us to continue picking up Go Mini rides. ” He added thatr they will force Captains later on to accept nominal rates of Go Mini rides once the major customer base moved to Mini from Go category.
Another Captain said that management had deceived the captains in the past. “Earlier, when we got our Japanese made cars registered into their system, the minimum fare earned from each ride was Rs.150,” said the Captain.
He noted that Careem management later brought down prices, launched a new category called GO and named the previous category GO+. “They told us that the Japanese cars would continue to get fare of Careem GO+ (at Rs.150 minimum fare) even if they picked up GO rides. However, soon they changed their policies and all the hatchback cars including Wagon R and Japanese cars were only allowed to operate in GO category, on lower rates.” He recalled that despite protesting against their decision, the management did not listen to the Captains.
“Now in an attempt to beat their competitor UBER, they have launched another low cost category called Go Mini, want us to trust them again and pick up low cost rides.” He said that if the Captains continued to pick Careem Mini rides, the management would turn their backs soon as in the past and force them to pick cheaper rides. “They always worry about increasing their customer base while cornering the poor captains.”
Meanwhile, Captains expressed their resolve to continue with the boycott unless the management addressed their concerns. “This boycott has already brought almost 50% of the work to a halt within the city,” claimed one Captain.
Meanwhile, Careem spokesperson Sibtain Naqvi exclusively talked to Digital Rights Monitor and assured that the matter had been resolved and cars registered in GO category would only receive rides according to their respective categories.
Shedding light on the controversy, Mr. Sibtain explained that GO Mini was initially marketed with an idea that cars like Mehran would be available on a cheaper rate. “But demand (for Go Mini) really picked up (and) we got an overwhelming response,” Mr. Sibtain noted.
Mr.Naqvi added that in this situation, GO cars were given the option to meet the supply crunch and pick up GO Mini rides while receiving the fare of GO category. He said that this was an opportunity for the drivers to not only meet the rising demand but also easily meet their target of their daily rides and bonus.
However, he assured that the supply of cars for GO Mini had been ramped up to meet sufficient demand in GO Mini. “Now cars registered in GO category will receive GO rides and those registered in GO Mini will receive GO Mini rides.”
In response to Captains’ concerns that their cars had been downgraded from GO+ to GO, he insisted that not all of them were downgraded. “ Some cars were downgraded because of complaints,” he said.
Customers suffering due to boycott:
While the Careem Captains continue with their boycott, this has caused immense discomfort to the customers as Captains have been pushing them to cancel the ride. One customer named Annam Lodhi had to wait for 45 minutes before she could get a Careem Mini ride as some captains refused to come and pick her up.
It is to be noted that the customers requesting Careem Mini rides do not ask for a particular type of car. Rather the Careem software automatically assigns rides to their Captains whenever a customer requests a ride through Careem Mini category.
Talal Raza is a Program Manager at Media Matters for Democracy. He has worked with renowned media organizations and NGOs including Geo News, The Nation, United States Institute of Peace and Privacy International.