Kolkata: Is the decades long monopoly enjoyed by the
'ubiquitous yellow taxi' run by CK Birla-controlled Hindustan
Motors about to take a hit in Kolkata?
In an interesting development, the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
government on Tuesday decided to approve a limited launch of
some 300-odd Tata Indigo cars as air-conditioned taxis in
Kolkata shortly. The decision was taken at a state cabinet
meeting at Writers' Buildings, although the specific launch date
is yet to be finalised.
At present, a tiny fleet of Tata Indica cars already ply the
city streets as luxury taxis under the 'Blue Arrow' brand
banner. Briefing reporters, West Bengal's transport minister
Subhash Chakrabarty said: "The decision to introduce Tata Indigo
luxury taxis only in Kolkata was taken based on a proposal
submitted by the Tata Group. Since these are luxury cabs, the
fares would be nearly 25% more than the ubiquitous "yellow"
Significantly, city-based car rental agency, the Orix Group,
will operate the Tata Indigo cabs within the Kolkata
Metropolitan area. The state government has issued the
all-important contract carriage clearance, which enables a
vehicle to ply as a regular taxi in the city.
A Tata Motors spokesperson told ET: "We are pleased to learn
that the state government has announced the decision. We are
modernising the city taxi fleet. The taxis will be based on the
Indigo luxury taxi model that is operative in Mumbai and Delhi."
Highly-placed industry circles, however, believe the state
decision to introduce Tata Indigo AC taxis in the city "will not
give the yellow amby a run for its money". This is largely since
the Indigo cabs will be in the category of luxury taxis.
Moreover, HM's fleet of yellow ambassador taxis operate across
"Between 1997 and 2002, several other car manufacturers had
received approvals to run taxis on Kolkata roads. These
approvals notwithstanding, a majority of the taxis running on
Kolkata roads are Ambassadors. The state government's cabinet
decision means we will have another competitor now," said Soni
Shrivastav, General Manager (Corporate Communications), CK Birla
group, on Tuesday.
"At present, some 35,000 Ambassador metered taxis operate in
Kolkata indicating that a whopping 99.9% of the taxis market is
the CK Birla auto flagship. Most of these taxis are BS III
compliant and hence, its road worthiness is also undisputed. We
are also present in the luxury car rental segment primarily
because of the sturdiness of the car prompting people to opt for
Ambassador cars for intercity movement," she added.
Interestingly, the 300-odd Tata Indigo taxis will be fully AC
and in the nature of wireless radio taxis, like the ones in
Delhi and Mumbai. All the cars will be equipped with GPS
(geographical positioning system), which would enable taxi
owners to identify the exact location of each car and send them
to places in the vicinity as and when required.