The Uber global team from San Francisco came to India to launch its new features and tech innovations.
While on a global business level Uber is undergoing several shifts and changes, on a product level the San Francisco-based cab aggregator is raring to go.
Daniel Graf, VP Product, Uber; Manik Gupta, Head of Product, marketplace and maps; and Peter Deng, Head of Uber, Rider Experience launched three important innovations for India - their progressive web app, call to ride, offline search and request for a guest. It is interesting to note that $68 billion-valued Uber is looking at India to launch a global product. Daniel said:
“While we are launching and testing in Bengaluru, the three new innovations are for a global market and launch.”
“Transportation (shared economy) today is exactly what the internet was in the 90s,” says Daniel, explaining how the concept was nascent and is growing speedily today.
Peter says while Uber is in India to explore the market, the dosa was on top of his mind to ‘decode’. He has been in India and is eager to taste different Indian dishes, and he admits dosa is his favourite.
The global team claimed that the India team was exploring the Indian, Brazilian, and South East Asian markets and found that:
“It, therefore, becomes important to work along the global access efforts and push for building solutions for riders who can't use or access the Uber app,” says Peter. The progressive web app is the first of its kind that provides the option of using the mobile browser to book an Uber.
The team also realised that most people prefer calling to book a cab. The 'call-a-ride' feature is currently piloting in Pune in popular zones. Manik adds that riders can call a single nationwide phone number and enter a numeric code displayed on signages put up in dense areas. This helps Uber locate the caller and send them a cab.
While Ola had a ‘call-a-ride’ feature, it later moved to the app, Uber believes that the ‘call-a-ride’ will work well in India.
“We are marrying the old and the new generation tech. The idea is to get a user to call and use intelligence and Uber specific mapping to understand the location. Once the ride is booked, if you call back the idea is to know that you want to cancel, and that is why you called again,” explains Daniel.
For riders using the app in limited network areas, Uber is enabling offline search by looking at the point of interest in the city. The idea is to help riders to enter the drop destinations without having to wait for connections.
Manik adds, “It works on caching throughout the app to barely need the network to load the app, including the rider’s recurring trips.” When the app detects a weak network, it prompts suggestions based on the rider’s past trips. The app caches the top locations in the city, so riders can quickly search, find, and detect their pickup and drop points.
“Most of our trips in fast-growing countries like India, are booked on behalf of someone else,” adds Peter.
The feature is open for all geographies, and app users can book a ride for a guest across all locations. The guest need not have a smartphone or an Uber app to book a ride.
In the 'Where-to' feature of the app the user needs to enter the pickup location for their guest, the details of the guest are then sent to the user and the driver details are then sent to the guest. The feature will be rolled out in a few weeks.
While talks with Softbank are still underway, it will be interesting to see how Uber innovates product wise.