App-based ride-sharing services guideline likely to get cabinet nod soon

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Uber Technologies Inc co-founder Travis Kalanick on Friday said he had appointed two new directors, a surprise move that publicly reignited a board battle over the role of the ousted former chief executive. Uber investors are divided over whether Kalanick, who was pressured to step down as CEO earlier this year in the wake of several company scandals, should himself be on the board and whether he can name two other directors. The company and new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi are scrambling to portray Uber as a reformed company that is responding to concerns including sexual harassment claims and a US bribery probe. Kalanick, still one of the largest shareholders, said in a statement he had appointed former Xerox Chief Executive Ursula Burns and former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain as directors.
Uber Technologies Inc co-founder Travis Kalanick on Friday said he had appointed two new directors, a surprise move that publicly reignited a board battle over the role of the ousted former chief executive. Uber investors are divided over whether Kalanick, who was pressured to step down as CEO earlier this year in the wake of several company scandals, should himself be on the board and whether he can name two other directors. The company and new Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi are scrambling to portray Uber as a reformed company that is responding to concerns including sexual harassment claims and a US bribery probe. Kalanick, still one of the largest shareholders, said in a statement he had appointed former Xerox Chief Executive Ursula Burns and former Merrill Lynch Chief Executive John Thain as directors. "I am appointing these seats now in light of a recent board proposal to dramatically restructure the board and significantly alter the company’s voting rights. It is therefore essential that the full board be in place for proper deliberation to occur, especially with such experienced board members as Ursula and John," he said. He did not specify the proposals he opposed. The appointments were a "complete surprise" to Uber and its board, the company said in a statement. "That is precisely why we are working to put in place world-class governance to ensure that we are building a company every employee and shareholder can be proud of,” it added. An investor who has supported Kalanick, Yucaipa Companies managing partner Ron Burkle, praised the appointments on Friday, calling Burns and Thain "smart, high-quality people." Division among Uber investors exploded in public in August, when Benchmark Capital filed a lawsuit to force Kalanick off the board and rescind his ability to fill two other seats on the panel, accusing him of concealing a range of misdeeds. Yucaipa and other Uber investors defended Kalanick and asked Benchmark to divest its own shares and step down from the board. A Delaware judge later that month stayed the Benchmark lawsuit and sent it to arbitration, pushing the dispute out of public view and delivering Kalanick a victory. Kalanick’s action on Friday could be subject to a new legal challenge. Benchmark or other Uber investors could attempt to block the appointments by asking the Delaware judge to issue a so-called "status-quo order." The judge last month did not grant such a request. Kalanick's lawyer at the time told the court that Kalanick had not rushed to fill the seats. The New York Times also quoted Kalanick's lawyer as telling the court Kalanick had the power to fill the seats under the pre-arbitration "status quo." Benchmark did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ride-sharing services guideline that aims to bring the service providers under government monitoring is likely to get cabinet approval soon.

In the wake of growing popularity of ride-sharing services among people, the government has taken the initiative to formulate the ‘ride-sharing services guideline’.

A draft of ride-sharing services guideline was first shared on the website of Road Transport and Highways Division (RTHD) on June 22 this year.

After several rounds of consultations with the relevant ministries, the draft was finalised and sent to the cabinet for approval, according to the RTHD officials.

But ride-sharing service providers claimed that the draft was finalised without discussing the matter with them.

Initially in the draft guidelines, it was said that the fares of such services would be deregulated for the time being and the government would only intervene in case of public grievances.

However, after several rounds of consultations with the relevant ministries, the RTHD decided to include the provision of keeping the fares below that of the taxis and not more than CNG-run three-wheelers.

Auto-rickshaws and taxicabs are not going to be included in the guideline as separate guidelines for those vehicles already exist.

Primarily in the draft, it was said that at least 200 vehicles will be needed for a company to be enlisted as a ride-sharing service provider. But now it was reduced to 100 in order to ease the procedures of grooming these new-generation entrepreneurs.

Currently, the rates of fare for taxi services like Trust and Toma are Tk 85 for the first two kilometres while down to Tk 34 for subsequent per kilometre.

In addition, the charge for waiting time is Tk 4.25 per minute.

The fare structure of ride-sharing services like Uber and Pathao, on the other hand, is slightly different.

For example, the base fare of Uber for its UberX service is Tk 40 while per-kilometre fare is Tk 18 and per-minute Tk 3.00. At the same time, the base fare of Uber premier services is Tk 80 while the per-kilometre fare is Tk 22 and per-minute Tk 3.00.

Meanwhile, the base fare of Pathao for its motorcycle services is Tk 50 while per-kilometre fare is Tk 12 and per minute fare is Tk 0.50. At the same time, the base fare of Pathao for its car services is Tk 50 while per-kilometre fare is Tk 20 and per-minute fare Tk 3.00.

Uber recently launched its motorcycle service called uberMOTO, for which the base fare is Tk 30 while per-kilometre rate is Tk 12 and per-minute Tk 1.00 respectively.

The concept of ride-sharing has become increasingly popular in many of the world’s major cities in recent years. In Bangladesh, this concept of sharing transport ride was first popularised with the arrival of Uber and a number of similar local ride-sharing entities last year.

Uber, the global ride-sharing service provider, which operates its activities in 66 countries around the world, launched operation in Dhaka in November last year.

Shortly afterwards, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) issued a notice, saying that the ride-hailing service was in violation of the country’s motor vehicles regulations.

Despite the ruling, Uber and a number of similar other ride-sharing services have gained increased popularity in the capital over the last one year because of a lack of decent transport services in this megacity, especially for middle-class people.

When contacted, Md Kamrul Ahsan, joint secretary of RTHD, told the daily sun that auto-rickshaws and taxicabs have their own set of regulations. So auto-rickshaws and taxicabs have been kept out of the guideline, he said.

He also said, “We sent the updated ride-sharing guideline to the Cabinet Division. Hopefully, it will be placed in the cabinet meeting soon.”

Imtiaz Kashem, founder of SAM and managing director of Datavoxcel Ltd, is the first to design the concept of sharing motorcycle rides in Bangladesh.

When contacted, Imtiaz Kashem said, “We are the first company in Bangladesh which started sharing motorcycle but no one contacted us in connection with the ride-sharing services guideline.”

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