What Will Uber Do Next In Dhaka?

BRTA categorically banned the operation of Uber, the unicorn taxi-hailing app, by publishing a notice in all mainstream newspapers on 24th November. It was easy to say that the operation of something like Uber is illegal as per the rules of present Motorcar act. BRTA just reminded us of that.

We reached out to Uber for comment but yet to get any official response.

Uber launched in Dhaka on 22nd November at 2:00 pm with Shakib Al Hasan taking the first ride. The startup has also partnered with the leading telecom operator Grameenphone. The service received good feedback from users before getting banned in third days of its launch in Dhaka. However, this is not the first time American Tech giant Uber facing a regulatory setback. Rather they are quite used to battling authorities.

The startup has made a name for its aggressiveness and muscle power for swaying the opinion of regulators in many cities where it operates. By mid-2015, it is facing 173 lawsuits around the world. From developed world to developing countries, they are used to face protest from Taxi drivers and Cab companies. But that seldom stopped the startup.

It can be safely said that Uber is unstoppable. It now operates in more than 538 cities around the world and the number is increasing every now and then. By only looking at this data, it can be said that Uber is not going away from Dhaka. Instead, this ban from BRTA is helping the startup free press, social media conversation, and marketing.

How Uber will relaunch its operation in Dhaka is remained to be seen but it is quite clear that Uber is not going to face any material challenge since its whole service is designed around internet based application and facilitation. Moreover, part of the BRTA ban is moot since Uber is not a taxi service company, it just connects rent-a-car companies, taxis, and independent drivers who already have licenses.

If that does not clear things up, Uber has records of going the extra mile. There are criticism against Uber that they employ rough tactics to stop protests. They dig deep to find “dirt” of past life of Journalist who negatively report them. A Government employee of Virginia, USA said he received a flood of emails and phone calls from angry Uber users after his stance against the ride-hailing service.

The social media space in Dhaka is littered with Uber talk. Many members of E-cab Facebook group has strongly criticized govt. stance on this issue. Some raised questions why the govt agency is so active to ban Uber when they are sitting idle when it comes to rampant misbehavior and irregularities of CNG and cab drivers. There are questions about what would happen to 8 plus other car-related services in Dhaka.

Transportation is a messy business across the world, it is more so in Bangladesh. Uber has upended taxi dispatch services in many cities in the world, which means it is quite a threat to Dhaka’s dysfunctional transportation services as well. Regardless of Uber getting out of this regulatory mess, this will bring some sort of legal framework for all other taxi-hailing services in Dhaka which is a good thing to happen.

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Nezam Uddin is a Co-founder at Future Startup and looks after finance.

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