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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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 technology 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 technology aggregator services, to be passed in the next four weeks.
“We have a firm timeline from the government,” said the Uber spokesperson.