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Tata Indigo cabs to ply in city  
  Economic Times | Kolkata | 28 November 2007  
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" variety."

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 West Bengal.

"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.

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