“Uber and Ola are quite close with spends and hours, so consumers more or less see their offerings as the same, and make a price decision when they choose which player to use,” Vumonic co-founder Gabriel Appleton said.

Uber overtaking

With an electric vehicle’s (EV) business, a digital wallet, and various food brands, Ola has a lot on its platter. Uber’s one-track approach—now with UberEATS gone—can be a formidable rival, experts say.

“Uber already has an ongoing expansion plan of spreading from just 50 India cities to about 200 cities, which will include its ventures of tapping the tier-II and tier-III cities,” said Sukriti Seth, consultant at Noida-based TechSci Research. “This will stiffen the competition.”

Beyond cabs, Uber is also focusing on growing its bike and auto segments. In capital city New Delhi, Uber lists metro and buses on its app, too. Following Ola’s move to spin off its EV arm in March 2019, its American rival partnered with Sun Mobility to offer e-rickshaws. And in December, Mahindra and Uber teamed up to put 50 electric cabs on the road.

Uber is also trying to bolster safety features by introducing 4-digit pins for riders—Ola launched a similar one-time password feature three years ago—and by adding a ride-check service wherein Uber calls both the rider and the driver in the event of a long, unexpected stop or other irregularities.


Uber’s desperation to win India may intensify now given that it is struggling in several other markets.

For starters, it was ousted from China by market leader Didi Chuxing back in 2016. In the UK, it is barely keeping its licence to operate in London and likely owes the country a big tax bill.

In the US, Seattle approved new fees on rides and a to-be-determined minimum wage for drivers. Chicago has passed a congestion tax on ride-hail services that adds up to $3 to private rides during peak hours. New Jersey recently hit the company with a $640 million bill for misclassifying drivers as independent contractors. In California, the jury is still out on whether its drivers are employees or contractors.

Meanwhile, its stock market debut was disastrous—Uber’s share price is still down nearly 10% since its initial public offering.

“Uber is also confronting the responsibilities that come with being a publicly-listed company,” Quartz India desk editor Pramod Mathew said in a comment on the Zomato-Uber Eats deal story. “There will be pressure from shareholders to pursue profitability.”

In this context, selling off UberEATS in India might just have taken some weight off its shoulders.

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