Trans­port gi­ant Uber of­fi­cially launches Pak­istan op­er­a­tions

The Pak Banker - - COM­PA­NIES/BOSS -

IS­LAM­ABAD: United States (US)-based ride-hail­ing ser­vice Uber Tech­nolo­gies Inc launched in La­hore on Thurs­day, step­ping into a chal­leng­ing mar­ket where credit cards are rare and se­cu­rity is a con­cern. Uber's launch comes shortly af­ter ri­val ser­vice Easy Taxi, backed by Ger­man firm Rocket In­ter­net, pulled out of Pak­istan amid a broad exit from Asia, where com­pe­ti­tion from lo­cal ride-hail­ing star­tups in­clud­ing Sin­ga­pore-based Grab Taxi and China's Didi Kuaidi is strong.

Uber's launch is part of a $250 mil­lion drive into cen­tral Asia, the Mid­dle East and North Africa, Shaden Ab­del­latif, Uber's head of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the re­gion, told Reuters.

It launched its low-cost uberGo ser­vice across La­hore at Rs13.7 per kilo­me­tre, a price Ab­del­latif said was low enough to at­tract as many cus­tomers as pos­si­ble. The cost is added to a base fare of Rs100.

In a de­par­ture from its usual busi­ness model, Uber cus­tomers will be al­lowed to pay in cash, rather than credit cards. "The re­sponse to our ar­rival has been fan­tas­tic ? both from rid­ers and driv­ers," Ab­del­latif said. In Pak­istan, Uber must con­tend with one of the low­est In­ter­net pen­e­tra­tion rates in Asia. The safety of both pas­sen­gers and driv­ers will also be a ma­jor chal­lenge where high crime rates and an in­tractable mil­i­tant in­sur­gency are preva­lent. In In­dia, the gov­ern­ment tem­po­rar­ily banned Uber af­ter an Uber driver was ac­cused of rape. Ab­del­latif said all Uber driv­ers would go through rig­or­ous screen­ing, as well as un­dergo manda­tory train­ing aimed at rais­ing aware­ness about sex­ual ha­rass­ment. "We are also en­gag­ing the lo­cal law en­force­ment on ways we can de­velop the in­ci­dent re­sponse process," she added. Uber, cur­rently val­ued at over $50bn, has ex­panded more quickly glob­ally than any com­pany in his­tory and is op­er­at­ing in 300 cities in over 60 coun­tries.

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