India is Uber’s second largest market worldwide behind only the U.S., and the company is today bolstering its position in the Asian country after agreeing to an alliance with media firm Times Internet. One component of that deal is an undisclosed investment from Times Internet.
The alliance is somewhat similar to Uber’s deal with Baidu in China, although we suspect that Times Internet is not putting in anything like the $200 million reported for that deal. Uber itself describes the investment as “small” — the crux of the coming together appears to be about raising visibility of its ride sharing services via a prominent media player.
The Baidu and Uber coming-together saw Uber ditch its uses of Google Maps in China, and gain visibility through Baidu’s search engine, but the Times Internet deal is about marketing. At this point, this is all that both sides are saying:
Times Internet and Uber will partner in bringing Uber’s technology, innovation, and entrepreneurial opportunity to more markets in India. The deal is centered around a commercial marketing arrangement accompanied by a small investment.
Times Internet is the digital arm of media giant Times Of India. It typically invests in Indian startups, but its overseas investments have included Fab (which is now with new owners), while it has partnered with Business Insider and Gawker to help launch websites in India.
Uber declined to provide more specific details on the partnership, but we’d imagine that it will include promotion across Times Of India’s offline, mobile and internet media properties properties, which the company claims reaches 200 million people.
“We are working on smart promotions and integrations to build awareness and excitement around Uber, which you’ll see in the coming months. And on the ground, we will help Uber with market insights, product localizations, and other India specific requirements,” Satyan Gajwani, CEO of Times Internet, told TechCrunch in a statement.
“India is one of our fastest growing markets in the history of Uber and one where we are investing heavily in continued growth,” commented Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO. “Marketing and distribution are a key part to our strategy for success in India and there is no better partner and platform for this than Times Internet.”
Less significant than the Baidu deal on paper, it provides an interesting insight into Uber’s continued aspirations in India. Its business was rocked with the alleged rape of a passenger late last year and a subsequent ban in New Delhi. Yet the U.S. company has continued to put significant resources into India, where it serves 11 cities and is almost certainly running at a loss with the aim of taking market share as India’s taxi app market expands rapidly.
SoftBank-backed Ola is Uber’s chief rival in India, covering 67 cities. It recently hoovered up smaller rival TaxiForSure for $200 million and has expanded into Uber-like territory with a food delivery service. Ola is reportedly raising as much as $400 million in new funding. Now, then, is a good time for Uber to get friendly with some natives in India.
Uber’s $1.2 billion funding round last year was earmarked for Asia, to the point that a portion of it was left open for strategic investments like those of Baidu and Times Internet. The U.S. firm has since raised a further $1.2 billion to take that Series E round to a massive $2.8 billion.