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Uber to set up $50-mn facility in Hyderabad

May partner govt for the smart-city initiative

BS Reporters  |  New Delhi/Hyderabad 

In what is Uber’s first major investment in India, its largest market after the US, the company will invest $50 million (Rs 317 crore) in building a response and support centre in Hyderabad. The investment will be spread through five years and the facility will be the taxi-aggregator’s largest international office. Through its research capabilities, the company is exploring ways to collaborate with the government on the smart-city initiative.

Last week, Uber said it had started operations in seven more Indian cities, raising the total to 18. This makes its India operations larger than those in China, Germany and the UK.

Though the company has become a force to reckon with globally, in India, it faces stiff competition from the SoftBank-backed Ola (formerly Ola Cabs). Ola, which acquired taxi aggregator TaxiForSure for $200 million in March this year, has operations in about 100 cities.

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Uber’s new facility will act as a centralised response and support centre for the thousands of drivers on its network, as well as for its customers. So far, local offices in each city addressed consumer and partner queries and grievances. Some customer complaints were also being addressed through the company’s support office in the Philippines.

Uber, which had committed to invest at least $1 billion in India and China this year, did not specify when the Hyderabad centre would be functional. It has ruled out setting up a call centre for its customers.

A centralised centre can cater to Uber’s expanding operations in the country in a better manner, as well as cut the response time. It will also handle the company’s internal operations such as salary processing. While Uber employs 100 people as of now, this is expected to rise to 500.

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THE ROAD AHEAD
  • Uber will invest $50 mn over the next 5 years to build a support centre in Hyderabad
  • The facility will act as a response and support centre for drivers and customers
  • This is the biggest investment by Uber in India
  • The facility will be Uber’s largest international office
  • Uber will also engage in data analysis to provide inputs on the smart cities project
  • It will also train and support 2,000 individuals from poorer sections of society to become drivers on its network
  • Will work with the Telangana government to develop a regulatory framework, to be passed for taxi aggregators in the next four weeks

Though the company has ruled out using the Hyderabad centre for research & development purposes, it will engage in research on how it can partner the government on the smart-city initiative. “Uber is known for its big data analysis and we will see what we can do with data to make cities more efficient and urban transportation better,” an Uber spokesperson told Business Standard.

The company will also train and support about 2,000 individuals from the weaker sections of society and help them become drivers on its network. “Uber will collaborate with The Telangana Academy for Skills and Knowledge (TASK) to identify and train 2,000 candidates by the end of 2016, who will then drive on the Uber platform. Uber’s vehicle finance programme and platform will facilitate first-time vehicle ownership and provide economic opportunities for successful candidates from the TASK programme,” the company said in a press release.

Recently, the company appointed Amit Jain, a former executive of US-based Rent.com, as its India president, a position created for India operations alone.

Uber has had a rough ride in India, following a driver on its network allegedly assaulted a woman passenger here in December last year. Subsequently, the company was barred from operating in Delhi. However, it resumed operations after applying for a licence under the amended radio taxi regulations of the Delhi government. Recently, the government rejected its application for a licence; the company is moving a fresh application.

Perhaps to set a precedent of favourable regulation, the company has now said it will work closely with the Telangana government to develop a new regulatory framework for on-demand transportation aggregator services, to be passed in the next four weeks.

“We have a firm timeline from the government,” said the Uber spokesperson.

First Published: Tue, July 07 2015. 00:58 IST
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