Uber is a global company with sites in many countries. Most countries are similar in operation and culture, but India is an entirely different operation. While it is home o over a billion citizens, most of them use old model smartphones with limited mobile data speeds, and most are top-ups without monthly plans.
Uber decided that they needed to have some hands-on insights into how to take over the Indian peninsula, especially since their main competition and company called OLA an app operated by ANI Technologies Pvt's. ANI started out 2 years before Uber hit the country and it is found in 110 cities with around 800,000 drivers in comparison to Ubers 29 cities and 450,000 drivers. This shows that Uber has a higher concentration of drivers per city, their market saturation is higher per head while OLA has a wider saturation covering more cities, so it's brand is more accessible. Softbank has invested in OLA and is, in fact, sealing a deal to invest in Uber, which will prove to be interesting for both companies, while Softbank wins no matter which one emerges victorious.
So, Uber sent a team of executives to India on a three-city tour to experience first hand what this country has to offer. The team comprised of Manik Gupta, head of maps, Daniel Graf, Uber's head of product and Peter Deng, head of the rider experience. The cities they visited were New Delhi, Bangalore, and Hyderabad. Gupta stated that the fact-finding tour was about immersing Uber executives in the experience that is India. The three witnessed first hand what true gridlock is, how UberMoto works and feel the share in ride pooling.
A few of the issues that they were faced with were connectivity problems, many times they lost contact with their mobile provider shutting down any chance of using the app effectively. They also faced slow app speeds due to the constant switching between 4G to 3G networks. Finding addresses is a major issue since addresses can be areas described by a customer and not an exact address. ETA's are true estimates, and sometimes there is no connection between the virtual ETA and the real world. This causes problems with fare estimation and actual driver earnings.
India's ride-hailing issues include slow moving traffic which does not stand up to the Western hourly rate evaluation and mobile web connectivity which does not meet the Western app's standards, so both drivers and customers are in a lose: lose situation.
Uber's team have already started to address the issues they face in India, which could be useful for other countries that might have similar problems as well as additional options for use in all countries. They have started to lower the pool fares to 29 rupees, which is the equivalent of 45 cents so that many new customers would prefer using an Uberpool driver for public transport. They have also introduced a lighter app version with less graphic intensity so that it can handle faster download and connectivity times. They also introduced a "request for guest" feature which allows a customer to place an order for another passenger, this service is called "call to ride" in Pune and will be available to customers without a smartphone, allowing them to call into an Uber voice-activated system that provides a list of popular locations to use as pickup points.
Graf stated that they were not going to develop a new product or the "cool new thing," what they will do is develop features that enable customers and drivers ease of access to reach rides and make the Uber experience as seamless as possible.