Uber plans bus, mini-van ride sharing service in India

The planned bus and mini-van service is called Uber Everything, similar to UberHop that has been piloted in several markets


India has become more important to Uber after the company merged its Chinese operations with that of local rival Didi Chuxing. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
India has become more important to Uber after the company merged its Chinese operations with that of local rival Didi Chuxing. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

New Delhi: Uber Technologies Inc. wants to launch ride-hailing services for buses and mini-vans under a new service named Uber Everything, as it continues to step on the pedal in India.

“The next big innovation that the company plans to introduce is Uber Pool in buses and mini-vans,” said a person directly familiar with the Indian plans of the world’s most valuable start-up.

A spokesperson for Uber’s Indian operations did not respond to an email seeking comment.

India, added the person who asked not to be identified, has become more important to Uber after the company merged its Chinese operations with that of local rival Didi Chuxing Technology Co.

India poses diverse “mobility challenges”, this person said, and “will drive Uber’s innovations” on account of that.

Uber has experimented with new services in the mobility space in the past. The most popular of these is UberHop, which functions pretty much like a scheduled bus service.

The company has piloted this in several markets.

The few details that are known of the service Uber wants to try out in India suggest it will be similar. UberHop offers scheduled services with designated pick-up and drop-off points for a flat fee.

The pooled ride-sharing service for buses will start life as a pilot and be overseen by Uber’s India technical centre in Bangalore.

Like its ride-sharing taxi service, the move is likely to pose a challenge for local administrations that currently regulate both private and state-owned bus services that offer rides within cities.

A second person familiar with Uber’s plans in India said the bus service is part of the ride-sharing company’s global initiative, also called Uber Everything, which aims to offer rides on anything that ferries people from Point A to Point B.

Mint reported on 15 September that Uber had started to divert to India a significant portion of the $1 billion investment it had originally planned in China. It also plans to increase the size of the team at its Bengaluru engineering centre.

While Uber will continue to subsidize every ride it offers commuters in India, the larger focus is on customization of product offerings and technologies in India. These will then be evaluated to determine if they can be used in other Uber markets.

In a September interview, Uber India head Amit Jain said that the company managed to introduce payment by cash in India, a first for Uber globally. UberMoto, which it launched in Bengaluru and subsequently in Gurgaon, enabling users to tap a button and get a motorbike ride in minutes, was introduced in Jakarta last week. The next big customization is “dial an Uber”.

Uber engineers in India are working to overcome problems posed in areas with low or no data network where a driver may not be able to respond to calls, Jain said in the interview.

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