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Uber wants to be the top player in India as Ola looks at overseas market

Karan Choudhury/New Delhi 16 Apr 18 | 02:25 AM

As the tussle continues between India's biggest cab service aggregators, Uber and Ola, the two are pitching themselves to their common chief investor SoftBank. 

Both have taken a diametrically opposite tact to show they have potential to be the biggest. Bengaluru-based Ola is starting operations in seven Australian cities. It plans to enter the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, US-based Uber has renewed its focus on India.

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Uber's executive leadership team (ELT), the core management committee that runs the company, is planning multiple trips to India to better understand the market. 

Issues related to founder and former chief executive officer (CEO) Travis Kalanick, internal turmoil and lack of focused leadership has cost the company almost a year, in which it lost leadership position in India and ceded the Southeast Asian market to Grab.  

With present CEO Dara Khosrowshahi pronouncing India a "core market" the company plans to go all out.

Uber Chief Operating Officer Barney Hardford will visit India next week during which he will meet government officials and business leaders. 

 More people from the ELT will be periodically coming to the country. "For Uber, India is the market where they want to prove they will be the top player. The idea is to make them understand the market and the challenges. This is a continuous learning process and ELT members will be coming regularly," said a source.

The company is launching a host of India-specific products in the country. Understanding that connectivity is a major issue in India, the company has launched a number of products to address this issue.

"We are focusing on key areas for riders and building solutions for those who don't have access to the Uber app. We are enabling our existing rider app to work better in emerging markets. Products such as a light web-based version of Uber, m.uber.com, provides riders with another convenient option to book a Uber cab," said Pradeep Parameswaran, head of central operations, Uber India and South Africa. 

The company has launched an offline search for riders using the app in areas with poor network connectivity.

With Kanpur and Amritsar, the company is now in 31 Indian cities. It has around 300,000 active drivers and currently does a little over 10 million weekly trips.

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