Uber will debut its biketaxi service on Thursday in India’s technology capital, making Bengaluru the second city after Bangkok into which the world’s most valuable startup is riding in on two wheels.
To be called UberMOTO, the service is aimed at tapping additional revenue streams in one of the world’s biggest markets for two-wheelers.
Fares will be as low as Rs 3 per km. “Uber will start this service since (Bengaluru) suffers from the similar issue of traffic congestion like Bangkok,” said a source who did not want to be identified.
According to this person, the company sees a huge opportunity in solo bike riders who have space to take pillion riders commuting on the same route. The service will be first launched on a pilot basis in Bengaluru, which has a perennial traffic congestion issue. It will later be expanded to other parts of the country.
According to estimates by the state transport department, Karnataka’s capital had 3.8 million two-wheelers, including motorbikes, scooters and mopeds, compared to 1.1 million cars as of March 2015. If successful, the launch of UberMOTO will mean a huge jump in the number of riding options for commuters and a significant expansion in Uber’s business. Average travel speeds in the city barely reach 10 km per hour.
Uber declined to comment for this story. Launching the service in Bangkok on February 24, Uber had said that all of its standard product safety features are in place before, during and after every UberMOTO ride, including live GPS tracking, two-way feedback and the ability to share trip details with family and friends.
The same features will be available in India. While rates will vary between Rs 3 and Rs 5 per km, it will be the cheapest offering by Uber so far. The company will charge a 20% commission on each ride and provide the passenger the option to pay with either cash or credit and provide an electronic receipt.
The move follows the launch of Uber’s carpooling service in Bengaluru and Delhi. The company launched the carpooling service in the national capital just a few weeks before the oddeven experiment. The launch of UberMOTO could be a precursor to the repeat of the oddeven trial run next month.
Since launching in October 2013, India has become one of the biggest markets in the world for the cab aggregator, which has said it will invest $1 billion by July in India. Ola, which is backed by SoftBank, is the biggest player in the cab aggregation business in the country.
Neel Ratan, executive director at audit and consultancy firm PwC, said that it is a smart move by Uber to tap into an underutilised asset.
“The option may not be completely infeasible for women commuters as they can be opt for women riders on two-wheelers,” he said. One of the issues that bike-taxi providers will encounter is a recent regulation by the authorities that mandates use of helmets by pillion riders.
Uber will be competing with startups such as Baxi, which operates in Gurgaon, and Rapido in Bengaluru. And then there are services from N.O.W, Bikxie and M-Taxi, all backed by investors. Ola is also said to be planning a similar service. Although Indonesia’s largest bike-taxi company GoJek is setting up an engineering centre in Bengaluru, it has not indicated plans for launching its service in India.