If you have visited Hyderabad’s City Museum, you can’t help but notice a picture from the Nizam era dating back to 1937. The photograph shows the old taxi stand at Afzalgunj with a long queue of taxis. The city has always been stylish in its own way, aspiring for convenient modes of transportation.
For Hyderabad citizens, it’s déjà vu-- Uber is bringing back style and luxury associated with daily commute in the city. The luxury transportation facilitation app officially launched in Hyderabad last week after operating in a soft launch mode since December.
According to Uber’s official blog, “A few weeks ago we rolled out secret Ubers in Hyderabad, and we’ve really enjoyed transporting you around the city in Nawabi style. So we’re thrilled to make this official: Uber has launched in Hyderabad!”
Everyone’s private driver
While chatting with EMEA and India expansion head, Jambu Palaniappan, about the global company that made its way into the third city in India after Bangalore and Delhi, he pointed out a connection between Hyderabad and the birth place of Uber, San Francisco.
“Hyderabad and Silicon Valley connection is the technology connection. Major tech companies have a presence in these two locations! People in these cities quickly respond to and adopt new technologies to solve everyday challenges,” says Jambu.
At present, Uber operates in 67 cities across six continents. And this number is set to increase.
Jambu says, “As we think of growth, it’s very much part of our ambition to be in every major city.” The company has 500 employees spread across its global locations. It has previously raised more than $360 million in funding from Google Ventures and other VCs with valuation of a staggering $3.4 billion.
He adds, “Uber’s lifestyle component fits well with the city. India is strategically important market for us and Hyderabad is our third city of launch. There is tremendous opportunity here given transportation infrastructure, comfortable technology, safety and security and reliability issues.”
To the question regarding Uber’s next launch city, its international launchers Neeraj Singhal and Swathy Prithivi , answered with a mysterious smile implying “keep guessing.”
We can only speculate that the next city to experience Uber luxury will be either Mumbai or Chennai.
Uber’s launch is good news for disgruntled commuters. Last week, there was a strike in Hyderabad by the autorickshaw unions. They were demanding that the minimum fare in the city be increased from Rs 9 to Rs 15. Competitively, Uber charges Rs.18/km in Hyderabad to ride in swanky cars like Volvo s60, Toyota Corolla and Honda Accord. Other competitors like MeruCabs charge Rs. 21/Km during the day and Rs.26/km at night.
Without the need to book hours in advance, the hassle-free Uber experience makes you feel as if you are travelling for free. You don’t have to take out your wallet at the end of the trip nor do you have to deal with a driver who doesn't have change for your high denomination notes. You just focus on your travel.
How the app works
You open the app on your smartphone (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, mobileweb) and press a button; you will see available cars (luxury, tourist cars, private cars with licensed drivers), and insurance. Then set your location and the car will arrive in a minutes. You have the advantage of knowing the type of car, photo of the driver in advance.
Most of the times, autos and cabs in Hyderabad will not agree to go short distances, but that is not an issue here. Once the car arrives you take it wherever you need to go. You can also share your (ETA) estimated time of arrival with someone waiting for you with a push of a button. If you are sharing a ride with friends the app will split the fair and distribute the cost automatically.
Allen Penn, head of Asia Operations at Uber, says, “The reliability and accountability we bring to transportation is what excites our users, and that is what differentiates us. Reliability which means when you open the app and get connected to a driver you know the driver is coming to fetch you. And you know how long it will take him to get there. You are getting high quality, professional chauffeur and a high quality car. There is a little bit of style to it too, style that matches the phase of the city. Not just as a utility to get from point A to point B but also makes you feel you are having a unique experience.”
The company has come a long way
Four years ago, I remember reading ‘MG Siegler, UberCab Cease & Desist Means One Thing: They're Onto Something’. That eventually forced the company to change its name to Uber from UberCabs. Since then when I think of mobile-based on-demand logistics app there is no other company other than Uber that comes to my mind. It combines smartphone, mapping technology, local service and logistics all at once. The company has come a very long way indeed. They’ve found their product-market-fit perfectly and are expanding aggressively-- disrupting an industry that existed 100 years ago.
The only hurdle right now for Uber India is to remove the friction of signing up. While entering payment details it requires CVV. And not all Indian cards are accepted. Uber uses the CVV to authenticate validity of the card and setup recurring billing.