In its biggest launch spree, Uber today rolled out services in four Indian cities – Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, Jaipur and Kolkata – marking 10 cities in the country. With today’s launch, India is now the biggest market outside of the United States in terms of cities where the service is available.
Like always, Uber has started with a limited pilot launch with promotional fares. In Chandigarh and Kolkata, the base fare would be Rs 40 followed by Rs 12 per kilometre and Re 1 per minute. The minimum fare would be Rs 80. In Ahmedabad and Jaipur, the base fare would be Rs 20 followed by Rs 11 per kilometre, Re 1 per minute and a minimum fare of Rs 80. In terms of cars, Uber will have a mix of Toyota Innova, Honda City, Skoda Rapid and Tata Aria among others.
Valued at $18.2 billion in its last round of funding, Uber is growing at a rapid pace with new markets being launched frequently. In India alone, Uber has launched in 10 markets in less than a year.
“When we looked at India before we started we saw so many roadblocks or hurdles that we thought would be difficult to cross – like credit card and data connectivity penetration. But we are seeing genuine demand even before we launch in cities. We have multiple thousands of users in every Indian city where we have launched,” Neeraj Singhal, head of international launches for India, told BGR India.
However, disrupting any industry doesn’t come without its challenges. Uber’s competitors in India – radio taxi services like Meru, Easy Cabs and Mega Cabs – have alleged that Uber violates Indian law since it doesn’t use two-factor authentication for credit card transactions as it uses an international payment gateway. The Association of Radio Taxis also alleges that the way Uber collects money from users and pays drivers is also in violation of FEMA laws. Singhal acknowledges that Uber has been approcached by RBI and the company is discussing the issue with them.
He also mentioned that Uber was willing to look at alternative payment mechanisms in India. “World over we use credit cards as our only payment mode. However, we are open to do things differently in India,” Singhal said. He added that there is nothing planned at the moment and credit cards would remain the payment mechanism for now.