Navin Kumar, a 35-year-old Uber driver in Delhi, can’t hide his frustration. It is apparent in his voice as he speaks. “I was better off without owning a car,” he sighs. Two years ago, Kumar was employed as a driver with a corporate house, a job that fetched him ₹17,000 a month doing the rounds of the city office and the airport.
That changed when Kumar was bamboozled by the Uber-Ola marketing spiel that promised drivers joining their network more than just a better life. There were tales of how the children of drivers were going to English medium schools, and how even postgraduates were hitting the road to earn that extra buck. These tales spurred many like Kumar to cobble enough money, either by selling jewellery or some asset, to make that down payment and register a brand new vehicle with Ola and Uber. Kumar, too, availed of a loan to buy a Maruti SwiftDzire. Initially, the going was good. Till mid-2016, he made an impressive ₹70-80K a month. But the honeymoon period did not last for long. Today, Kumar’s earnings are down to ₹15,000-₹18,000 a month. “I need to drive additional hours for that,” he complains. What Kumar claims to take home is hardly enough to cover his expenses, which includes a ₹13,000 monthly loan instalment. Fuel, maintenance, and other costs make ‘Uberpreneurship’ an unviable pursuit for him.
This explains why in February, a distraught Kumar participated in a st