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Uber has just announced another India-first: UberAuto. Uber app users in Delhi, India’s capital city, can now hail auto rickshaws within the app and pay for the ride in cash. For now, UberAuto is a cash-only-service, and this too is an India-first – in no other country does Uber enable cash payments.
Uber has thus come a long way since its arrival in India with luxury sedans, UberBlack. Compact cars followed with UberX, and then hatchbacks with UberGo. Now we have three-wheelers in UberAuto, as the US-based company adapts to India’s value-conscious mass market.
Uber’s homegrown rival Ola, which just raised US$315-million in funding, had introduced auto rickshaw booking in its app late last year. The option is now available in many of the Indian cities Ola operates in.
Last month, it took the service a step further by launching cashless rides — the in-app Ola money wallet can be used for auto rickshaw bookings across Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Ahmedabad, Delhi, and Bangalore. It extended the service to Mumbai city’s traditional yellow and black taxis called Kaali-peelis as well. It claims to have over 40,000 autos and kaali-peelis registered on the Ola app.
So this too is perhaps an India-first — that the global startup which pioneered tech-based taxi-hailing is now following in the steps of its Indian rival. But it also underlines the importance of the Indian market for Uber, which is embroiled in a regulatory row following the rape of a passenger in a taxi booked through Uber in Delhi.
It shows that Uber will leave no stone unturned to be successful in India — and that’s good news for Indian commuters who have long suffered poor urban transportation. The arrival of Uber, which also forced its local rivals to step up their act, has proved a boon.