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Rajiv Patel is economic attaché at the Embassy of India in Berne and business columnist for Swiss Radio and Television. He has a degree in finance from the University of Delhi and does management consultancy for large corporations worldwide. He enjoys cricket, sudoku and love songs.

What’s so special about Uber?

Dear Rajiv,

What’s so special about Uber?

Daniel C., Geneva

When I was a young lad studying in Mumbai, the streets were full of hand-pulled rickshaws. In my neighborhood there were just a few pullers, and we knew them all by name. Customers were treated with respect and we often left the drivers some extra money, so they could go see a film starring Amitabh Bachchan or a five-day cricket test match.

Then one day, taxis replaced the rickshaws. Cab drivers were unfriendly, because their business model did not encourage friendliness. They could sulk all the way to destination and it made no difference, since these chaps covered large parts of the city and never saw their clients again. Why bother building customer loyalty in such conditions? Why say “thank you” and “come again”, when you know you won’t lose your rating by behaving like a chutiya and treating your passenger like a scum-sucker from the slums?

As a young man with a hint of moustache, I traveled abroad and discovered that taxis all over the world shared this same business model. I even found that in each country, the cheekiest type of driver is always the one who specializes in trips between the airport and the city center. You need to smack these gadhe ke bacchey on the head at least three times until they agree to turn their meter on.

I tested Uber on a recent trip to Paris with Aishwarya and the kids. Hassan came within two minutes, offered us bottled water and crackers, and brought us to our hotel for 30% less than what regular taxis charge. In return, I gave him a five-star rating on the app and a generous tip. Just like in the good old rickshaw-days in Mumbai.

So what’s so special about Uber, you ask? Uber has put the smile back on the driver’s face, and onto mine as well. For that alone, I think they deserve the Nobel prize.

Follow Rajiv and watch his videos on Facebook and Twitter.

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