Soon, hiring Uber cabs will be just a call away

Priyanka Pani Mumbai | Updated on April 20, 2018

Pilot drive in Pune before rolling it out globally

Taxi hailing company Uber will soon launch a feature allowing its users to book a ride by simply dialling a phone number instead of using the mobile app. The initiative, which is under pilot in Pune, since last year, is aimed at users who either do not own a smartphone or are not tech savvy even if they have a smartphone and prefer to call.

The calling feature — Call to ride — is also being targeted at users with limited access to Internet in small towns and even in cities or are running out of their limited data plan. Uber COO Barney Harford disclosed the new initiative during his ongoing India visit.

A natural experience

“Calling over the phone is still a natural experience for emerging markets, and we have heard that some riders in India prefer booking a ride through a phone call. We are piloting a phone number that riders can call to book an Uber across popular zones,” said an Uber spokesperson.

He added that certain popular spots have been assigned a code (a number), which the users need to share with the Uber driver over call and the driver will be able to locate the destination with the help of that code.

The spokesperson further said that after receiving positive responses from users during a small pilot in Pune, the US-based company has also piloted the feature in Eastern Europe and Latam (Latin America) countries with challenges akin to the Indian market. However, the company declined to share details on how the payments will be done through this feature and when would the feature go live nationally. It also did not respond on how the destination codes have been programmed.

For those without app

“We are focussing on key areas for riders and building solutions for those who don’t have access to the Uber app, enabling our existing rider app to work better in emerging markets,” Uber said responding to an email questionnaire.

“...We want to make sure we understand the rider, their needs, the barriers, and then build from there. We are building features that will help us better serve our rider needs and have recently announced the rollout of India-focussed innovations like Call to Ride,” the company’s spokesperson said.

‘Call to ride’ is not the first India-focussed innovation by Uber. Other similar initiatives were UberDost, a mobile application that allows anyone to refer divers and earn payouts when their referred drivers start driving on Uber. It also launched Cash as an payment option first in India in 2015 and scaled it up globally in several emerging markets such as Latam and Africa.

The Call to Ride feature will give the US-based company an edge over its arch-rival Ola in smaller cities and towns. The home-grown Ola, with presence in over 100 cities, has overtaken Uber with the largest share in the Indian market. Both Ola and Uber have a common investor and speculations are rife on Ola being the contender to acquire Uber’s operations in India.

Published on April 20, 2018

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