Eyeing the untapped but lucrative market beyond the 150-million-odd smartphones users in India, technology majors, e-commerce companies
and app-based aggregators are all working to come up with ways of offering services in areas with low or no internet connectivity.
Technology giants like Google, Facebook
and Microsoft, e-tailers like Amazon India and Flipkart, as well as cab-hailing services like Uber
have understood the need to devise means to reach the users of feature phones, which, according to industry analysts, account to 50 per cent of mobile phone sales across the country.
While Google, Facebook
and LinkedIn have brought lighter versions of their respective apps that work on feature phones as well, those like Amazon and Flipkart are working on developing feature-phone-friendly apps.
Uber, currently present and providing rides at nominal rates in 29 Indian cities, including tier-II and -III locations, is also hoping to reach out to those not using smartphones. "There is a huge market which the company wants to reach out to. For the next level of growth, this is important," said a source close to the company.
With a new global chief executive at its helm of affairs, Uber
is making a concerted effort to become a dominant player, particularly in India, which is an important market for it after its exit from China.
The company has also entered into an agreement with a consortium led by SoftBank
and Dragoneer to explore a potential investment that some reports suggest could be worth up to $10 billion.
While Uber’s board is reported to have approved the fund infusion, SoftBank
has said the investment deal will depend on the tender price and a minimum percentage shareholding the cab-hailing company will offer it.
"We are interested in Uber, but the final deal will depend on the tender price and a minimum percentage shareholding for SoftBank," he said in a statement.