Uber fired up on green mobility; to fund, buy stake in start-ups
It will also lend its expertise to help create a green mobility ecosystem
Uber India is open to picking up equity stakes in Indian green mobility startups, in addition to supporting them with technical expertise and opening up its ride share platform to allow them to experiment with their products.
In a major push toward electrification, Uber India President Prabhjeet Singh told Business Standard these start-ups needed help on three fronts.
“One is technical expertise and mentorship which is hard to come by as the mobility eco-system is still developing. Two, they want to experiment quickly with their products, otherwise they will have to spend millions of dollars before they can scale up to get customer feedback. The third is funding. We are committed to providing support on all fronts. Over a period of time there is no reason why we will not take an equity stake in such companies,” said Singh.
Responding to the big investments in electric two-wheelers made by rival Ola Electric, Singh said Ola had made ‘ bold calls’ and it was looking forward to seeing how things played out.
But he stressed that going electric was a ‘team sport’ and consequently Uber will be leaning on collaboration with its partners (it already works closely with M&M, Sun Mobility and Lithium) to meet its objectives.
The company has recently launched an innovation fund with a corpus of $100,000 which will offer one-time grants for entrepreneurs working in green mobility.
Singh said that, post the second wave, Uber now has ‘all hands on deck’ to meet the growing demand. “In categories like auto, motor, rentals, and inter-city services, we are near precovid levels already in terms of ridership. Our service Uber Connect which is a package delivery service has grown 3X. And we have introduced corporate shuttle services. We are now in 90 cities with our various services and will hit 100 in a few weeks,” said Singh.
He said the auto rickshaw business has caught on with the number of rides crossing pre-pandemic levels because it is a low cost solution, offers drivers an incremental increase in income of 15-30 per cent and is a win-win for all stakeholders. The model is now being replicated in Africa and the Middle East. It has hit the jackpot in markets like Tanzania.
It is also expanding its R&D centres in Hyderabad and Bangalore from 750 staff to 1000 by the end of the year. More importantly Uber is undertaking R&D projects for the Uber’s global needs.
Its Hyderabad technology centre has developed the technology for high capacity vehicles which will range from 8, 20 and even 40 seaters to take people from one point to another. The service has started in Egypt and might be introduced in India too.
It has also created a solution on the delivery side for markets in Japan and US. In addition, it has worked on updating maps in over 150 cities across the globe which needed to be reworked due to the requirements of geo-fencing during the pandemic.
Abroad, Uber uses the same cars and two-wheelers to deliver food and packages. “We are in active dialogue with Uber headquarters on what other pieces of core technology developments in the delivery of goods and food can be moved to India,” said Singh.