Companies

Uber to test drive ‘Express Pool’ in India

Varun Aggarwal Mumbai | Updated on July 02, 2018

)   -  PTI

As Uber continues to face fierce competition from Indian rival Ola, the company is looking at expanding the pie by testing ride services at various price points. In a conversation with BusinessLine, Prabhjeet Singh, Regional General Manager, Uber India & South Asia, said the company is piloting Uber Express Pool in India as a part of expanding its lowest cost offering. Exerpts:

Are there any technical challenges that make it difficult for you to pair the right riders in Uber Pool?

First, Uber is super excited about the potential of pool. I think the reason why we believe pool is a game changer is because it truly ends up challenging private car ownership and fundamentally in long term, reduces congestion on the road. According to our global portfolio, India is one of the largest pool markets for us, where our riders and drivers have adopted pool emphatically. More than 25 per cent trips across all the big cities in India are on pool.

Having said that, there is a constant endeavour to improve the rider and driver experience.We are exploring multiple innovations in order to minimise the inconvenience for riders in term of time spent in vehicle sharing. Products like Express Pool in the US, which is being piloted, will soon be coming to India. In its early days of pilot, we are encouraging riders to walk a little so that they can optimise the matching algorithm.

We are doing a phenomenal amount of work at the backend to make this work. The fact that pool has taken up in such a big way, I think is a testament to the power of the product

Why is Uber as compared to Ola, slow in terms of expansion in India?

This is a tech business where we need to make sure that we are continuously doing the right thing for riders, drivers and the city. These are our three stakeholders.

The fact that we have a strong competitor in India makes us even better, and makes us innovate.

For example, we launched Uber Lite, which is a product made for India. It is a 5MB app which can work in low network. It is designed with the feedback from consumers who do not have enough space on their phones. We are super committed to invest in India. When it comes to expansion, I feel very strong about the footprint we have. Expansion for us is about the presence in cities and the portfolio of products we offer.

We are already operating in more than 31 cities across India. Our goal is we should be a one-stop platform for all mobility needs of our customers. Expansion has multiple dimensions and we continue to invest. Many of these products are uniquely Indian because Indian consumers gave us feedback that they want these services.

Uberappears to be emulating Ola in India. Why is Uber becoming a follower rather than a leader of innovation in India?

We have to provide distinctive experiences to both riders and drivers. I don’t think we are in the business of who launches a product or service first.

I think it’s important for us to launch a product or service which both riders and drivers love, we will do lots of testing, research, multiple designs.

A lot of science goes into understanding what happens when somebody requests Uber. How do we ensure reliability, and accurate navigation to the location using maps. At Uber, we have always believed in providing distinctive rider and driver experience because that is what will make them come back to the platform. I don’t think we interpret our success as launching a service before the other.

How are you gearing up for the Mumbai rains?

For us, there are three parts on which we focus. First, we’ve been working very hard in the last couple of months to make sure we’re able to supply the required number of drivers who are also educated enough to navigate through the city.

Second, which is the strength of being a lead tech company, we have historical data of multiple years to understand how the traffic pattern changes during this period. There are certain parts of the city where the demand goes up a lot more during the season and we are able to plan better.

Last thing is about ensuring that when the rains hit, our riders are educated and aware of how to use the service.

We try and educate our riders that during rainfall they may have to wait slightly longer as there are chances that the demand may exceed the supply. We also encourage people to carpool through campaigns during high demand seasons so that more people share the ride.

Published on July 02, 2018

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