Disclaimer: This article was first published here
In the wake of strong dissent expressed by Indian Taxi drivers, it is worth asking whether the aggregator model is one which can keep both the customer as well as the supplier (the taxi driver, in this case) happy? As we speak, numerous taxi unions are on an indefinite strike in major cities like Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi with an overarching complaint- India’s two most popular on-demand cab companies are not helping drivers earn enough; in fact the daily earn for some cab drivers has plummeted by 80% over the last 6 months.
The Customer vs. Supplier Conundrum
With the intense competition in the on-demand taxi aggregation space, the two key actors in the eco-system viz. the driver as well as the customer are often left dissatisfied due to diverging demands – one party is simply not earning enough while the other party is asked to pay an exorbitant amount for a ride. Given that on-demand ride hailing has become a habit, customers are forced to accept the fares displayed on their screens under the guise of the ‘going-rate’ or the ‘price that you pay for comfort’. And there’s nothing wrong with that whatsoever- demand drives prices. Why would a company not want to charge a customer, a certain something, a premium, if there’s a demand for that service?
The problem becomes a little more complicated when it comes to the drivers. In the early days, aggregator companies invested significant capital into acquiring and retaining driver partners by incentivizing them with lucrative payouts, even if they were losing significant money on every ride. With the focus increasingly turning towards profitability, the companies are forced to cut costs. And the drivers are suffering in the process because of the sudden decline in their incomes.
When I login to Netflix each day, a troupe of amazing ‘Netflix Original’ films await for me, but none from India. I kept wondering why Netflix wouldn’t invest in a few interesting films that are still made in the country. I still wonder why it took a few years and a Valentine’s Day to release an Indian film on Netflix worldwide before it came out commercially. There are controversies around this as well since critics claim that Love Per Square Foot is not a Netflix ‘Original’ as it wasn’t commissioned by Netflix (just acquired from the producer), but it should be labelled as the first Indian film to be released on the platform. Unless, of course, you consider ‘Brahman Naman’ by Q last year, which was carefully sided as an Indie film and not a commercial one. Setting aside these intricacies, Love Per Square Foot is officially the first Indian film to be released worldwide on Netflix. And that, I hope, would start an era of good, relevant, and necessary films on this virtual platform.
I watched Love Per Square Foot on a cold, depressing evening, probably wishing for some warmth from my comfort zone where it is set – Bombay. I can’t say it wrapped me in an incredible duvet of emotions but it did replace some of the chill with a warm, fuzzy feeling that is so indigenous of seaside Bombay.
In the past few years, India has been plagued with diseases that involve unique and less known viruses from around the world. We’ve always been wary of mosquitoes that are part and parcel of our sub-tropical climate. They are the carriers of most viruses and have been wreaking havoc since decades, mostly without being detected. Dengue, kala-azar, yellow fever, Malaria and the likes have taken away several lives when treatment was sparse in the early 20th century. Growing up in West Bengal, we have been using a mosquito net since forever and while it is irksome to manage, it has probably prevented quite a few diseases. But the usage is getting rare these days as it is an inconvenient and confined measure to prevent the mosquitoes and more families are opting for other convenient methods.
Zika virus : The rise and spread
I wasn’t aware of the Zika virus until a few years ago but now I know that it was discovered long ago in Africa, though it also has an Asian strain. It was limited to Africa until 2007 and began spreading in Asia post that. Zika virus is transmitted through the mosquito species Aedes aegypti that also carries deadly viruses of Dengue, Malaria and Chikun guniya. The mosquitoes bite an infected human and then a non-infected one to transmit the virus. While it has always been prevalent in Africa, only a few cases have been recorded in India yet. But don’t let that fact deter you from gathering prevention from Zika virus as there is no vaccine invented yet.