Curious cases of Pickme drivers

Pickme is a well known home grown brand. It revolutionized how we hail a tuk from home. There are plenty to read online on the change it has made. Here I’ll write about the different types of tuk drivers I have encountered once you make the booking via the app.

The ideal one

Does not call to check the location but trusts you and the app (and the GPS on the phone) and turns up at your pickup point and marks as arrived. Perfect.

Sir, location eka harida?

Calls to ask if the location is correct. Defeats the purpose but can’t blame them if in the past some users were not correctly setting their location and GPS is off on some devices.

Asks for the destination

Politely asks for the destination. You wouldn’t bother as long as he turns up regardless of where you want to go.

Politely declines

Though they aren’t supposed to do, politely asks us to cancel because they don’t want to take the hire.

Says he is far away

They ask for the destination and if it’s too short for them or for some other reason, they lie that they are far away, whereas we can see he is close by.

Lame excuses

This one person said he just got his tyre punctured after asking for my destination. I cancelled and rebooked, the same guy picked up the hire again but this time he cancelled himself.

Cancels without any reason

He does not call, does not ask for the destination but cancels a minute after accepting the hire.


Beating the inflation – what to do with your savings (Feb 2017)

Cash at hand may sound good but it is not a good idea for several reasons. On one hand, it may not be safe and can be a hassle carrying it around but more importantly, it loses value with time – due to inflation. In short, if you are able to buy something for 100/- now, you may have to pay more for it next year. Inflation for January 2017 was 5.5% as per the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, therefore you need to grow your money by more than these levels to preserve the value of money.

Generally people are aware that they receive an interest on bank deposits, but at times they do not know how much they get. While current accounts pay no interest on the balance, savings accounts give a low interest around 3-4% pa normally but give flexibility on the amount and ability to withdraw at any time. There are specialized savings accounts by certain banks which provide higher rate of interest with few conditions.Fixed deposits are the next option with less flexibility in terms of withdrawal but they do offer an option to take a loan on deposit at any time if needed. Finance companies generally offer higher rates for than banks and even higher for senior citizens.

Let’s take a few options for an excess amount of 100,000/- at hand and what you can do with it.

  • PABC Champion Saver – 5.50%
  • DFCC Xtreme Saver – 6.50%
  • Cargills Bank High Return Saver – 7.00%
  • Cargills Bank 12 month FD – 13.00% pa
  • Sampath Bank 13 month FD – 13.00% pa
  • Sampath Bank 12 month FD – 12.00% pa
  • DFCC 12 month FD – 12.00% pa
  • Vallibel Finance 12 month FD – 12.50% pa
  • Vallibel Finance 5 year FD – 13.50% pa monthly interest payment

Above rates are as at 8th February 2017 from the respective websites.

You can also consider investing in shares if you prefer. Equities tend to give better returns over long period of time although currently the Colombo Stock Exchange index has taken a beating during last few months. ASI index is 6093 as of 7th February 2017. Contact your stock broker for professional advise.




Tuk Tuk Sri Lanka

When I was a kid, our household had a van. This was mostly given on hire while I was taken to pre-school in a taxi – a black ambassador car. Though I was a kid who didn’t ‘know the world’ back then, I still remember the days and the car. Ambassador cars were the taxis back then; I guess rickshaws pulled by people also existed. I can’t remember if the ‘tuk-tuks’ that we call now were in operation – I can find out if I google but I prefer to write this from whats on my mind.

They were called trishaws, 3wheelers (obviously) and only recently tuk tuks. Back then it felt like an awesome machine, small, swift and easy, but there was plenty of space on the roads. Along the line, authorities ignored the taxi industry, forgot the tuk tuks and now they seem to be a problem. Many changes for public transport were seen while private buses are regulated (although not under total control).

The tuk tuk population just reached a million recently as per a news item. That’s a huge percentage considering the total population of the country. Most of them I’m sure are from Colombo. It has become the easiest and simplest method of self employment for anyone. If you don’t have a job, buy or lease a tuk tuk, get on the road and run some hires – this seems to be the strategy. This has led to a drastic increase in number, increased competitions for those who put food on the plate with the help of tuk tuks and chaos on the roads!

Taxi meters took a long time to get going but once it did, most of them got them fixed. If one does not have a meter running, he gets less hires so is forced to use it. But still the meters are not standardized by SLS or any institutions nor are they regulated, specially the fare. With a fixed fare for the first km, they started charging 30/- for the km and most gradually increased to 40/- with the rise in petrol prices. Even for a 5/- increase they increased by 5/-. But when the fuel price was reduced, only a handful reduced the fare.

There are many who run for taxi companies, which cropped up very quickly. Back then only the premium taxi companies had a call center to order cabs – cars – and they were expensive. With 3wheel taxi companies coming up, the car taxis also improved their service. These 3wheel taxi companies charged a lower fare with two or three who are popular than the rest. Then we also had the nano taxis.

Too many tuk tuks, unregulated, is not healthy. They generally run riot on the roads, sneak through gaps and pose a risk to other law abiding drivers. Of late there are ‘educated’ people driving expensive cars who seem to have gotten this habit too. Anyway, the industry must be regulated. A permit scheme must be introduced to limit the number that can run at any given time.

This will be bad news for the Indian manufacturer, but hey, what’s important here? The Sri Lankan Government should look after the interests of its people.


Why I think fuel prices should not have been reduced

One of the promised the new Government came into power with is the reduction of fuel prices, and it delivered. Yay!

This is the thing – I don’t think this is for the best. People tend to be happy when price of anything is reduced but generally they don’t see the bigger picture – at least the slightly bigger one.

Let’s take petrol, something that was heavily taxed and what most people use to run their private cars. To the average person who goes uses a car to travel to work daily and the usual weekend runs, yes he will save some good amount. But he would not stop there – usually he would do some more traveling. Again it’s good that he can do more for the same amount.

Flip-side, there are many who had were leaving their cars at home most of the time due to high fuel costs. Now all of them have put their cars back on the road – result – more cars, same capacity of roads -> Traffic! It’s not to say that they should not be using their vehicles, but they surely are spending more now than before right? And they would have done the feasibility BEFORE buying the car.

Congestion specially along Galle Road during peak hours is horrendous now compared to before. Car registrations are sky high. Hybrids seem to be the trend with people revolting against the increase in taxes of hybrid car taxes but any car is going to use fuel. (I’ll post on hybrids later).

The issue here is also the rising import bill of the country. Fuel consumption has increased dramatically after the reduction in prices and we are paying in dollars. In the end, it’s going to bite us in the purse gradually later on. A price formula is in the talks again and is supposed to reduce our fuel prices as global prices are at their lowest. Eventually it’s going to rise and so will our fuel price. People will again blame the government for that – who is going to explain to them how the formula works?

Why can’t we keep the prices as it is now (I’d prefer if it is raised) and increase it with inflation in future while saving the excess profits in  dedicated fund or something? This can be used as something similar to hedging.

Talk about the tuk tuk guys. When petrol is increased by 10/- they increase the fare by 5/- but when it is reduced by 30/-, NOTHING!

Think about it.

Why this election Koleveri?

The General Election is around the corner. We seem to be having more elections than cricket match wins for Sri Lanka. I wonder how the politicians are taking it (the stress).

Recently it got me thinking, why all this campaigning? Let’s admit that although there are 1000s of candidates contesting, there are only 2 political parties that have the chance at victory. The smaller parties would be getting some amount of seats and could determine which of the two main ones comes to power in the end. But what are they campaigning for? and how are they doing it? (from my point of view)

When I scrolled through the results of 2001, 2010 and other elections, what I saw was “funny?”. Some of the contestants have been switching sides more frequently than we thought. Once switching (thereby deceiving and betraying the voters) voters tend to forget their roots and the fact that they did jump earlier. We have come across those who had jumped and changed their speeches within a matter of days to suit the new faction.

Since of late, the “jumping” and double-jumping has become a sensation with dedicated segments allocated in some TV news for these. Given the way things were going, I wouldn’t have been surprised even if both PM candidates switched symbols in the end!

Now about the campaigning, whatever is said in rallies and pocket meetings, is only heard by the party supporters (generally brought from some other area) – who most of the time don’t even pay attention. These staunch supporters will cast their votes for their parties regardless of what is said. When these are telecast, the opposition supporters rarely watch and listen removing their colored glasses (fair enough – only a little is true in what’s being said). So whom is it targeting? Floating voters? If the floating vote is decided on what’s said on stage and not based on what they researched, god bless them.

Where are the door-to-door campaigns and personal telephone calls? All we got is the mass sms from some number and leaflets under the door. I remember some time ago, some used to come to our house and have nice 5-10mins (at least) chats personally or to a group of families. There was one who called and did that – before that he asked permission for our time. Whatever happened to those?

Election promises – once again in abundance. It’s like Christmas to a kid. Everyone is in a generous mood. When one party promises something and completes it, there’s a mountain of criticism for it. When the opposition gets its time, it tries to beat it. But do they declare how they will do it? Aren’t the public (you and me included) interested in knowing how it can be done? If salaries are going to be increased, how are they planning to do it? There should be something different in revenue generation than the last few years – is there?

Talking about politics is a stressful matter to anyone. I just hope that whatever the party that wins, may some educated, sensible, intelligent policy makers enter that important building at diyawanna oya.