Uber Technologies Inc. has struck a marketing deal with Times of India Group, publisher of Times of India and Economic Times newspapers, to boost visibility in a market that it has termed its largest and fastest growing after the U.S. The deal shows how the subcontinent has become a strategic priority for the rideshare company. It's pulling out all the stops to grow there after a recent consolidation in China, another key growth market, left some 95 percent of the cab-sharing app business in the People's Republic in the hands of local rivals KuaiDi Dache and Didi Dache.
“The deal is centered around a commercial marketing arrangement accompanied by a small investment,” Uber said on its blog. Uber didn’t provide financial details, but Economic Times reported on Monday that Times Group could have invested about 1.5 billion rupees (about $24 million) in the rideshare app company, citing people familiar with the development.
This is the largest partnership to date for Times Global Partners, the part of Times Internet that supports “emerging global digital companies’ entrance into India,” according to the post. The business previously has partnered with Huffington Post, Business Insider, Gawker Media and Ziff Davis.
The partnership with Uber will help create “jobs for millions of Indians ... developing a spirit of micro-entrepreneurialism for thousands of drivers,” Satyan Gajwani, CEO of Times Internet, said in the post.
Uber’s partnership with Times Group underscores the importance the California company is placing on winning in the world’s most populous country after China, as local rival Ola Cabs, backed by Japan’s SoftBank Corp., already claims it has an 80 percent share of India’s organized cab business, according to media reports.
The organized cab sector, however, constitutes a small portion of the overall market in the country, where automobile penetration is at about only 3 percent.
Uber has similar partnerships in other markets, including Baidu in China, AmericaMovil in Latin America and American Express in the U.S. Uber is counting on its partners' understanding of local markets and consumer behavior to increase the marketing and distribution of the its services. Uber suffered a major setback in India when a passenger alleged her Uber driver had raped her in New Delhi in December. The accused driver was arrested and the resulting prosecution is underway in India’s courts. The passenger also has sued Uber in the U.S. The complaint had led to a temporary ban on Uber on the subcontinent.
Uber has since announced measures to improve the safety of its passengers, including independent scrutiny of the drivers in its network, adding a panic button on its mobile app and an innovative pilot effort to map the safety perception of different localities in Delhi using both camera phones and inputs from people on the app.