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Times Internet invests in Uber; Private Treaties?

Uber SOS

Times Internet*, the digital business owned by Times of India group, has entered into a strategic partnership with the taxi booking service Uber in a deal that is “centered around a commercial marketing arrangement accompanied by a small investment”, according to the company.

The Economic Times, a Times of India group publication, has reported this as a Rs 150 crore deal. The marketing part of the deal, according to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, includes the Times of India groups “print, radio, OOH, and digital marketing platforms”. Note that the Time of India group pioneered the private treaties business, now called ‘Brand Capital‘, which involved taking equity in companies in exchange for marketing inventory. An example of how private treaties deals were structured, here.

A press note says that “India is the second largest and fastest growing market for Uber globally”, and Uber has similar partnerships, including with Baidu in China, AmericaMovil in LatAm and American Express in the US. In India, it operates in eleven cities across India – Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi, Pune. It hasn’t had it easy so far.

Uber in India

Uber has had a troubled few months in India, having been sued for negligence & fraud in the US federal court, following a passenger being raped by one of its drivers. Following the rape, Uber was banned the Delhi Transport, later brought under the radio taxi license. Uber appears to have resumed operations in Delhi. A few weeks ago, Uber announced a tie-up with location-based mobile safety app Safetipin to enable Uber’s partner drivers to collect area data across Delhi from February 25 to improve passenger safety. This pilot program will be continued for the next 5 months.

Uber competes with Ola Cabs in India, which, after raising $210 million from investors like Softbank, acquired Taxiforsure.

Expanded mandate for Times Global Partners?

This appears to be an expanded mandate for Times Global Partners (TGP), and, according to the company, its largest partnership yet. TGP has so far partnered to bring publishers into India – Huffington Post, Business Insider, Gawker Media, Ziff Davis, and others. Times Internet also has an investment in travel vertical publisher Skift. This isn’t, however, Times Internet’s first investment in a non-media business: it had invested in ecommerce venture Fab, to help it enter India, but is likely to have lost money on that deal.

Disclosure: Times Internet is an advertiser with MediaNama

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