Uber is launching a rickshaw-on-demand service in India as part of a larger push into emerging markets. The company calls the service UberAUTO, referring to the motorized, three-wheel auto-rickshaws ubiquitous in India and many developing countries.
Customers who use the service can order a driver using a mobile device, but they will be able to pay with cash after their ride at government-approved rates.
“When it comes to getting around Delhi, auto-rickshaws are a staple,” the company said in a recent blog post. “We recognize the history and value of autos to the transportation landscape. For us, uberAUTO is another way of using technology to offer more choice, making life simpler and keep Delhi moving.”
There are more than 100,000 rickshaws in Delhi alone, according to the Times of India. And with this expansion, the San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc., is throwing itself into direct competition with local company OlaAuto, owned by ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd., which also allows customers to hail rickshaws with a mobile device. (Ola recently added a cashless option.)
Uber has been running on a “no-profit” model in Delhi while it awaits an official license. In the meantime, a woman is suing the company, alleging she was raped by one of its drivers. The case is just one of many public relations challenges Uber faces as it tries to appeal to the growing urban populations of emerging markets.
The U.S. company recently expanded into China, where it faces stiff competition from domestic companies such as Yongche and Didi Taxi. It also expanded its “Uber for Business” platforms in cities in Nigeria and Kenya, where it continues to face logistical difficulties. Earlier this month in Mexico City, local taxi drivers took to Uber cars with bats in a dispute about Uber taking over their business, according to a report in El Pais.
Regardless of the difficulties, Uber recently received $1.6 billion in financing and is valued at $41.2 billion, which, according to the New York Times, makes it one of the highest-valued private startups.