Bengaluru: Ride-hailing service Uber Inc, known for its app-based taxi booking service, will enable bookings through a mobile website in select cities in India, a significant addition to its existing offerings that is expected to increase its user base by offering multiple booking channels.
The company said in a statement on Thursday that the service, Dial an Uber, has been currently rolled out in Nagpur, Kochi, Guwahati, and Jodhpur.
It’s rival in India, Ola (ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd), shut down booking through call centres and website to become an app-based service in July 2015.
The development was first reported by Yourstory on 16 August.
The decision to move beyond the app can significantly boost Uber’s user base in India, where it is fighting with home-grown rival Ola for a major share of the market.
According to industry experts, this could be the second masterstroke from Uber after introduction of cash payments, another India-specific feature and drift from its global operations, in May last year.
Globally, Uber enables direct, automatic deductions on consumer’s credit cards stored in the app.
Uber introduced cash payments in India for the first time in Hyderabad in May last year and extended it to Bengaluru and Delhi, two of its biggest markets, by last September.
Currently, Uber allows cash payments in all 27 cities where it operates.
The company also announced on Thursday that consumers can now book a cab on Uber for others, in a different location.
“We are excited to launch Dial an Uber and Request a Ride for Others for riders in India. Designed to offer simple and more convenient ways to book a ride, these India-first innovations are testament to Uber’s focus on using its technological prowess to make mobility reliable and accessible for everyone,”said Apurva Dalal, head of engineering, Uber India.
According to industry experts, the fight for dominance in India between Ola and Uber is likely to intensify even more, after the merger of Uber’s China business with Didi Chuxing, who is also an investor in Ola.
After the merger of Uber’s China unit with Didi Chuxing, the largest ride-hailing service in China, India may become for Uber what it is for another American tech giant, Amazon: a market it cannot afford to lose.
The merger of Uber China and Didi will present an awkward scenario for Ola, India’s largest cab-hailing service. Didi is already a strategic investor in Ola (promoted by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd); the Chinese company participated in a $500 million funding round in Ola late last year.
Not just that, Ola, Didi and two other international cab-hailing services, US-based Lyft and Singapore-based GrabTaxi, entered a global ride-sharing agreement last December to take on common enemy Uber, which wants to dominate urban transportation across the world.
But Uber China’s deal with Didi changes everything. It has ramifications for Ola’s marketshare battle with Uber, its fund-raising efforts and its future.
There are two scenarios: either Uber will throw its might behind its India business to fight Ola or it may seek a merger with the Indian company, like it has with Didi.
In July last year, Uber committed an investment of $1 billion in India. Ola, which has raised about $1.2 billion so far, is in talks with investors to raise about $400-500 million, Mint reported on 15 June.