Uber said on Tuesday that it has won a bid to work with the government-run subway system in India’s capital in one of its rare announcements in India, a key overseas market where it is facing a fierce battle with local giant Ola.
The ride-hailing giant said it has partnered with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) to deploy parking spots and introduce new products at 210 subway stations in Delhi, Gurgaon and Noida. Neither of the parties offered a clarification on how many years it would take for these deployments to materialize. A DMRC executive said Uber was not an exclusive partner for the subway system.
The company said it is also rolling out a software update to its app to include real-time public transportation options in the Uber app. It’s the same feature — which is limited to offering details such as navigation data and pricing but does not include the ability to book a ride — that Uber unveiled recently as it attempts to become “an operating system” for all transportation needs.
But the company, which has visibly scaled down some of its businesses in India in the past year, had nothing more concrete to say. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said onstage that Uber was “here to stay in India” — a familiar promise that he made in Southeast Asia early last year before selling the local business to Grab a month later — but avoided a question about the future of its food delivery service UberEats’ India business.
In recent months, many restaurants in India have ceased their tie-up with UberEats, and the company has lowered the discounts it was bandying out to aggressively compete with local rivals Swiggy and Zomato.
UberEats has lost more than a third of its business in India in recent months, industry sources told TechCrunch. Last year, Uber held talks with both Swiggy and Zomato to sell its UberEats business in the country, but failed to attract any meaningful offer, people familiar with the talks said.
Bhavik Rathod (UberEats’ India and Southeast Asia head), Deepak Reddy (head of central operations for UberEats in India) and several other executives have resigned in recent weeks, people familiar with the matter said. Uber’s spokespeople did not respond to TechCrunch’s emails.
At the event today, Uber executives declined to take questions about UberEats’ future in India. In an interview in 2017, Khosrowshahi said India was one of the key regions where the company planned to invest heavily. But in the years since, Uber has become a public company and faces pressure from its shareholders to reach a path to profitability. In the quarter that ended in June this year, Uber reported that it lost more than $5 billion.
Uber’s local rival Ola, in the meantime, is increasingly expanding its footprint in the nation. The Indian company, which leads the local market, said last month that its two-wheeler service, Ola Bike, is now available in more than 150 Indian cities and towns and it intends to take this transportation option to 300 additional towns and cities by next year. Uber is operational in fewer than three dozen cities in India.
Last week, Ola introduced a car rental service in Bangalore called Ola Drive. The company, which has expanded to New Zealand, Australia and the U.K. in recent years, said it is making an initial commitment of $200 million to add about 20,000 cars to its rental fleet by next year.
Uber is also facing a major challenge to convert to electric a significant portion of its gasoline-powered fleet in India. The Indian government has ordered ride-hailing companies to electrify 40% of their fleets by 2026. Ola, here too, has an advantage over Uber. Uber declined a request to make its top executives available for interview.