While the cab-hailing app Uber is in the news elsewhere as traditional taxi drivers rise in protest in European capitals, the company, recently valued at $17 billion, looks set to enjoy a weekend of buzz around the brand in India.
In Mumbai and Bangalore, Uber is offering a one-time service this weekend–users can “hail” a chopper. Effectively, they can book a chopper ride from within the app. For Rs5,000 ($85) for two people, an Uber cab will pick you up and take you to a helipad, from where a chopper service operated by a commercial operator will take you on a 20- to 30-minute ride around the city. This will be followed by brunch and a ride back home.
In the US, Uber offered a similar service last summer offering five seats for $3,000.
“We try and look at ways to democratize premium experiences. We will see how the service goes on Father’s Day weekend and then decide on whether we can offer the service more regularly and in other parts of the country,” says Bhavik Rathod, Uber general manager in Bangalore.
Less than 5% of India’s 600,000 taxis are in the organized segment. So investors see major potential. Venture capital firms have invested more than $130 million in the last seven years in radio cab companies and in booking platforms. Uber, which entered India last year, enjoys a reputation among the young and savvy in India’s big cities for the premium vehicles–Honda Civil, Toyota Corolla, Mercedes Benz S-class and Audi A6, among others–it sends its customers.
For this weekend, the initiative is more a brand awareness exercise than anything else, and the company is hoping to attract peak interest. “We are expecting a huge demand for the service, but the number of people we can accommodate will depend on weather conditions and aviation rules about the time till which we can fly,” Rathod said.
Deals on Groupon offer a chopper ride over Mumbai by Air Deccan, the same service provider Uber is using, starting at Rs3499.