Two of SoftBank funded cab booking services: Ola and South East Asia-based GrabTaxi are in talks for a global taxi alliance to take on rival Uber, reports BuzzFeed. It says the alliance is being driven by SoftBank Capital and San-Francisco-based Flywheel is also part of these discussions with Flywheel CFO Oneal Bhambani and Flywheel CEO Rakesh Mathur discussing specifics with Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal.

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GrabTaxi’s CEO Brian Cu told BuzzFeed that this alliance would include knowledge sharing and possibly cross-booking i.e. you can book a GrabTaxi cab from GrabTaxi using Ola’s mobile app and vice versa. SoftBank Capital and Ola Cabs declined to comment on this to the publication.

It’s worth noting that SoftBank had invested (pdf) $250 million in GrabTaxi last month and had also led a $210 million investment in Ola in October last year. Meanwhile, Uber had also raised $1.2 billion at a valuation of $40 billion from Qatar Investment Authority, hedge funds Valiant Capital Partners & Lone Pine Capital, and VC firm New Enterprise Associates last month.

Implications

Travelers abroad might find these partnerships useful as it avoids downloading multiple applications when they are in a new city and help them use the local cab-hailing services there, given that Uber is available across markets. In addition to integrated apps and information sharing, the companies could also share revenues when a cab is booked internationally on their apps.

Recent Ola Cabs related developments

– Ola in November, piloted a new service in Bangalore which allowed users to book auto rickshaw rides in the city. In October, it also allowed Mumbaikars to book rides on the city’s black and yellow taxis.

– Ola also introduced an in-app wallet to facilitate cashless cab booking in September.

– In addition to $210 million raised from Softbank, Ola earlier in July raised Rs 250 crore from Steadview Capital and Sequoia Capital with participation from existing investors Tiger Global and Matrix Partners

– The company also introduced Ola Mini in Bangalore, its low-cost cab service, which uses hatch backs with per kilometer rates on par with auto rickshaws in February.

Developments in the online cab booking services segment

– July 2014 to November 2014

  • Mumbai-based radio cab service Meru Cabs asks Reserve Bank Of India to extend its recurring billing guidelines to foreign players as well, thereby creating a level playing field among domestic and International players
  • The Reserve Bank of India in August issues a notification that mandated that entities that route online billing internationally, for goods and services purchased online using Indian cards, need to include a second factor of authentication, and route transactions through a bank in India. Services such as Uber, Amazon, Google Play, Apple App Store had till October 31st, 2014 to comply with these instructions.
  • In November, The Reserve Bank of India has extends the deadline by which Uber will have to comply with its two-factor authentication rules, from the 31st of October to the 30th of November.
  • Uber has exclusively partners with Paytm to enable users make use of Paytm’s prepaid wallet to pay for their tax rides. Bangalore-based online cab booking service TaxiForSure had launched its own in-app prepaid wallet to offer cashless taxi rides too. Olacabs and Meru Cabs had also launched in-app prepaid wallets earlier in November.

December 2014: 

  • Uber driver rapes a woman: A 27 year old woman was raped by one of the Uber drivers who was part of the company’s recently launched low-cost India-only service UberGO.
  •  Delhi Police investigates and flags several security issues with Uber: Following the investigation, Delhi Police raised several security concerns against Uber including no driver verification & background checks, no live GPS tracking system independent of the phone and no driver license among others. DCP (north) Madhur Verma mentions that the driver was also a repeat offender and had faced rape charges in 2011, something which Uber didn’t check while hiring him.
  •  Uber Statement : Uber says that it has provided the local authorities with all relevant details that includes driver details (name, age, photo, complete driver’s license details, bank verified address) vehicle details, (license, registration, insurance, state-issued driver permit) and trip details (trip data, route, pick-up & drop-off location). It also mentions that it exclusively partners with registered for-hire drivers who have undergone the commercial licensing process, hold government issued IDs, state-issued permits, and carry full commercial insurance.
  •  Delhi Govt consider cancelling Uber’s permit : Delhi government considers cancelling the permission of Uber and scrutinise the permits of all private taxi services. It also sends a notice to Uber under the section 161 of CrPC and is considering legal action against the company for failing to run background checks on drivers before onboarding them.
  •  Delhi Govt bans Uber : Delhi Government bans Uber’s services in the city saying that it is “misleading consumers” by plying taxis with All India permits which is not allowed while offering point-to-point travel services in the city.
  • Mathur said that cabs plying customers point-to-point in Delhi, have to follow the Radio Taxi Scheme that includes guidelines like having taxi parking space & office space for call centers among others. However we believe these radio taxi guidelines doesn’t apply to platforms like Uber, since it is essentially a tech platform that allows drivers to list their cars and consumers to hire these taxis. It doesn’t own these taxis or employ drivers on its own.
  •  Delhi Govt bans all unlicensed taxi services, including Ola, TaxiForSure : The Delhi transport department announces a list of licensed six radio taxi services and says no other taxi service providers are allowed to provide services in Delhi, until they get a license from the department.

January 2015:

  • The Delhi Transport Department has brought online cab aggregators like Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure under Radio taxi license by amending its Radio taxi regulations.
  • Uber says it is now compliant with all of RBI’s rules.