UberEats launches in India, starting out in Mumbai

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Uber has launched its UberEats service in India today, where it will initially be available in Mumbai.

The company said it plans to expand the reach of UberEats in India to six cities before the end of the year, but it did not disclose which cities it will hit. Mumbai is as good a place to start as any, being that it is one of India’s three business hubs and a city with an estimated population of 20 million people.

“Mumbai is home to a booming food industry with a vibrant food culture offering both global and local cuisines. The introduction of UberEats in India, with Mumbai as the first city, is a major step in our global expansion and showcases our commitment to the region,” Bhavik Rathod, Head of UberEats India, said in a statement.

This new UberEats launch, which was first teased in January, takes the service in 78 cities across 26 countries worldwide. Eats first began as a pilot project in 2014 in Los Angeles, initially inside the core Uber app but it later got a standalone app. It entered Asia through a launch in Singapore back in March of last year, and across the region it is also available in Tokyo, Japan, and Bangkok, Thailand.

India is, of course, a huge global opportunity, and it is one that Uber is more committed to than ever having exited the Chinese market. India’s online population is tipped to reach 450 million-465 million people by June 2017, according to a report co-authored by the Internet and Mobile Association of India, bringing with it the potential to connect people, be it to taxis, cars, food and more. E-commerce sales alone, for example, are estimated to reach $48 billion by 2020, analyst firm Forrester claimed.

UberEats is up against plenty of competition in Mumbai, where the likes of FoodPanda, Swiggy and Zomato have competed for a number of years. Last month, Google even ventured into the space with its own service for ordering food or home services. Ola, Uber’s on-demand ride rival in India, also dabbled in food, but its program was closed down last year after less than 12 months of operations.

Uber isn’t saying too much about how it plans to tackle its rivals. In other cities, it has put a heavy focus on curating its list of restaurants — others, like FoodPanda, operate as a more volume-focused marketplace — and it is of course sure to lean on its ride-sharing business, which is battling hard with Ola.

While there are no clear metrics that show which company is ahead of the other, Ola has been consistently linked with a new round of funding that would reduce its valuation. The firm reportedly raised $250 million in fresh capital at a $3 billion valuation, according to the Economic Times reported, which would be down from a $5 billion valuation in 2015. That down round may be a reflection of the challenge of growing a tech business beyond tier-one and -two cities in India and into rural areas, but another aspect could be the consistent challenge that Uber is bringing.

Uber has thrown more focus on Eats lately, beyond its ongoing global expansion. Recent updates added tailored recommendations, customizable drop-off directions for drivers and new filtering options, while it also introduced a restaurant management service that helps restaurant partners get actionable insight through data.