Uber adds wedding service as new cash rules kick in

Customers can pre-pay for rides that can be shared with family and friends for wedding-related travel, Uber said


Apart from India, Uber offers UberWEDDINGS in Washington DC, San Francisco, New York, Boston and LA as well. Photo: Reuters
Apart from India, Uber offers UberWEDDINGS in Washington DC, San Francisco, New York, Boston and LA as well. Photo: Reuters

New Delhi: Uber Technologies Inc. has become the latest startup to capitalize on India’s currency crunch by starting a car-booking service for weddings at the height of the country’s marriage season.

Customers can pre-pay for rides that can be shared with family and friends for wedding-related travel, such as hopping between markets, shopping for the perfect outfit and getting guests to the venue, Uber said in a statement Monday. That follows rival Ola’s start of a ride now-pay later service to help customers strapped for cash and new services from e-commerce operators Flipkart and Snapdeal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to ban 500 rupee ($7.30) and 1,000 rupee notes, along with rationing of new 2,000 rupee bills, has created a shortage of the cash typically used to pay for wedding expenses. Uber is counting on the pre-payment option to appeal in a country where it’s common for thousands to attend lavish weddings involving feasting and week-long revelry.

“UberWeddings provides an easy way for hosts to ensure that all wedding-related travel in the city is managed through cashless pre-generated promo codes,” Prabhjeet Singh, General Manager Delhi & NCR of Uber India, said in a statement.

The government’s move came just before the start of the wedding season that lasts from November until February, the most auspicious period on the calendar for many Indians. Uber said its service, which is available in the U.S. and other markets, will be offered in a dozen Indian cities until the end of the season.

In India, where credit cards are rare, families resort to cash to pay for entertainment, catering, decorations and dozens of other expenses. Most of these costs would have been paid for in the now-banned 500 and 1,000 rupee notes.

Daily cash withdrawals are being limited to a few thousand rupees while many marriage ceremonies can cost more than a million rupees.

Local media reported dozens of instances where families, wedding invite in hand, scrapped with bank officials demanding they be allowed to withdraw savings. In New Delhi, a bridegroom queued up at a bank ATM the entire night before his wedding day. Bloomberg

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