PickMe drivers protest new app features

By Madhusha Thavapalakumar

A group of PickMe drivers launched a protest campaign in front of the PickMe Head Office in Nugegoda earlier last week over two new upgrades in the company’s taxi operations.

One point of contention was that PickMe had provided options for drivers to downgrade their vehicle categories during off-peak hours from its actual category to ensure drivers were occupied 80% of the time, including at off-peak time.

“For example, a sedan could downgrade itself to the mini-car category. There will be no passenger traffic during off-peak hours but through this they will be utilised rather than not doing anything,” Founder and Chief Executive Officer of PickMe Jiffry Zulfer told The Sunday Morning Business.

However, the new facility created a fear among the lower category vehicle owners that higher category vehicles would take over their hires.

“It is the mini car category which had the problem. They are worried categories like sedans will take away their business.”

Zulfer noted that even though sedan vehicles downgrade themselves into a lower category, they would charge the fare assigned for that lower category, providing a comfortable ride at a lower cost to the customer.

The second issue was the introduction of off-peak hour products which can still operate during peak hours if the driver wishes so.

“We brought a new product line for off-peak hours. We introduced three wheelers for Rs. 25 per km, whereas on the road, it is Rs. 40 per km,” he stated.

Zulfer further noted that this off-peak product was just an option for existing three wheeler drivers to downgrade their fares from their initial fare and at no point would PickMe force drivers to choose this product.

“We have a million three wheelers out there. Some drivers are willing to drive at Rs. 25 per km even during peak hours.”

He added that this off-peak product had a higher demand among passengers due to its affordability.
The protest was brought under control on Friday (22) according to Zulfer. He added that that these new changes were accepted by almost all of the PickMe drivers, excluding a minor percentage who protested and hence the protest did not create any substantial impact on PickMe’s day-to-day operations.

PickMe’s footprint currently spans the entirety of Colombo and its suburbs, as well as Negombo in the North, Kalutara in the South, and Kaduwela in the East, while it also operates in Kandy.