Cruise in a cool cab

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By SAMHITA L. CHAKRABORTY
  • Published 30.11.08
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Talk to any Calcuttan about commuting in comfort in the city and you run the risk of being laughed off. But travelling in Calcutta can be quite enjoyable too, as Delhi-based Soumya Roy found out on a two-month business trip recently.

The software engineer was dreading the daily commute to his office when a friend suggested Kolkata Cabs.

Soumya dialled a number and voila, a sleek air-conditioned Indigo Marina pulled up at his doorstep, replete with plush seats and a uniformed chauffer wielding a cellphone and impeccable manners.

Though not new to the concept of radio taxis (remember Blue Arrows?), Calcutta has caught on to the dial-a-cool-cab phenomenon fairly recently. This August, Kolkata Cabs launched its radio taxi services in Calcutta with a fleet of 100 Indigo Marinas.

Neeraj Kumar, the CEO of Orix Auto Infrastructure Services Ltd., the parent company of Kolkata Cabs, claims “an unparalleled level of technology to provide unparalleled levels of service”.

The services include no-refusal cabs with comfortable seats, constant monitoring of the vehicles through GPS, digital tamper-proof meters, receipt printers and lost-and-found facilities. Payment through credit or debit cards will be introduced soon.

“Our market survey revealed that safety is a top priority for passengers. Our cabs are fitted with a panic button, which a customer can press in case of an emergency. Once we receive an alert, our control room will determine the exact location of the cab and send help,” says an executive of Kolkata Cabs. Special attention is given to the selection and training of drivers, he says.

Some Calcuttans have taken to the idea. “The best part about having a reliable radio cab service in the city is the independence it gives us women,” says Srirupa Ghosh Dastidar, a 27-year-old animator. “Now, if I need to return home later than 10pm, I don’t need to depend on anybody,” she smiles.

But are Kolkata Cabs pocket-friendly? Yes, feel most customers.

R. Talukdar, a frequent flier, has switched to Kolkata Cabs for airport drop and pick-up. “Earlier I would hire a car for Rs 200 from my Salt Lake home. At Rs 15 per km, the fare for Kolkata Cabs comes to Rs 180, that too for a much more comfortable ride. And before I return, I call their office and tell them my time of arrival. They send me a text message with the car number and driver’s cellphone number. Once I land, I give the driver a call.”

Orix Auto’s cabs are also environment-friendly. In Delhi, they run on CNG, while the Hyderabad Cabs run on LPG. “As soon as CNG or LPG is commercially introduced in Calcutta, we will switch to a cleaner fuel,” says Neeraj Kumar.

But why didn’t Calcutta warm up to the Blue Arrow cabs the way it did with Kolkata Cabs?

Says adman Ram Ray, the founder-chairman of Arrow Amenities: “One of the major hurdles for Blue Arrows was the price perception. Since air-conditioned taxis were a novelty in Calcutta four years back, many people never availed of them thinking it would be an unnecessarily expensive ride.”

There isn’t much of a competition for Kolkata Cabs as of now, but an employee of Orix Auto pointed out that radio taxi providers in other metros are sure to set up shop here too.

So, next time your aunt from Delhi complains about commuting in Calcutta, dial a cool cab. And show her.