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Soon after the San Fransisco-based ride hailing firm Uber launched its initial public offering it is mulling to experiment with its bus service in India to promote mass transit for value conscious riders.
"We are in the process of building the product and refining that. There are pilots that are live in parts of Latin America and Middle East. So they are archetype of markets that would look like India," Pradeep Parameswaran, Uber India and South Asia head told Moneycontrol in an interaction.
"I am hoping that in India we will be out in the next 12 months or so. Fundamentally we can say that buses play an important part of pubic transport. Every version of a well performing transit solution will require buses," he added.
Uber officially announced the launch of its first ever bus service in Cairo in October. The service allows users to reserve their seat in an air conditioned bus through the Uber app. When the riders requests a ride, the company, scans for the other passengers traveling in the same direction so that the rider gets to his destination with fewer stops.
Interestingly, the app-based bus services is not an alien concept in the Indian market. Domestic rival Ola had a short run with this service. It launched its bus service, Ola Shuttle in 2015 and wrapped up the business in 2018 after scaling it across multiple cities.
According to Ola, it wanted to focus on emerging categories such as auto, share and electric vehicles.
Uber on the other hand is counting bus service as among the key areas that will help the company gain major transaction among the masses.
Over the last 12 months, the company has also stopped describing itself as a car company.
"Uber has not found its product market fit in India yet which means that the number of people who can afford air-conditioned cars on an everyday basis, two times is somewhat a limited market. Now as the economy grows and the per capita income grows, that segment is growing quite fast. On an absolute basis, we are well into kind of tapping that market. But Uber's mission was not only to serve the top lot. Our ambition is to get reliable transportation to all. And I am very pumped about the work that we have started to do with two wheelers, three wheelers, our global plans around buses, Things that actually make a difference to a much larger group of people," said Parameswaran.
He, however, declined d to share any further details on the service adding that a lot will depend upon the success of the pilots in the other markets.
Even as Ola has exited the space, whenever Uber launches bus service in India it will lock horns with younger firms such as Shuttl which recently raised Rs 49 crore in a Series B round of funding from Sequoia Capital, SCI Investments and Lightspeed, among others. Overall the company has raised around Rs 300 crore so far.
Currently Shuttl runs on a subscription model and charges customers Rs 1,800-2000 for a monthly pass. The rate depends on the number of rides to be taken by the rider in a month.
Other startups in this space include names like ZipGo which last announced a fund raise of Rs 300 crore led by Essel Green Mobility Ltd in 2018.