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Uber pauses its uberAUTO service in India; same fate for UberINTERCITY?

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Online cab aggregator Uber, which launched operations in Sri Lanka today, has put a pause on its uberAUTO service, reports Quartz. The company had not launched uberAUTO in any other Indian city, after its launch in April this year in Delhi. The report added that the service, was shut down two weeks ago.

Uber confirmed this to MediaNama and issued the same statement Quartz carried, “…We are temporarily removing this product to solve specific problems that need to be resolved to help it scale.” Our questions about the number of autos on the platform and the reason for its pause were unanswered. A WSJ report cited a Uber spokesperson as saying that, “It was a temporary experiment which has now ended,” contradictingly stating that the company had plans to re-introduce the service, albeit without a timeline.

Uber accepts credit cards globally and had made an exception for India offering users to pay for auto rides by cash. It later extended this option to its cab services, adding debit card payments, after a pilot in Hyderabad.

FINAL RESIZED RIDERS1

We also enquired about the Uber intercity service which launched in May, taking passengers from Pune to Mumbai and vice versa, which has possibly shut down as well, since we’ve not seen the option on the app for a week or more. The company’s spokesperson said that they would get back to us on this query. Interestingly, Uber has crunched some numbers into a chart of intercity Uber riders in India and their completed trips. However, it is unclear which data it has used, since the intercity service did not operate in any other cities.

Ola launched its autorickshaw service in November last year. In March, it debuted cash payments for autorickshaw and traditional cab services and later moved to mobile wallet payments. Ola Auto operates in Bangalore, Delhi, Pune, Chennai, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad where it takes cash payment and Ola money. It has 16,000 rickshaws in Delhi and over 54,000 rickshaws on its platform across 5 cities. Ola says it is expanding to 3 more cities by ‘the end of the year’ (reminder, the end is here).

The autorickshaw aggregating industry:

It seems that launching uberAUTO may have turned into competition for Uber, given the almost same or even lower pricing of cab rides. (Related read: Ola Mini offers auto-like fare in Bangalore)

– In Pune, AyAuto shut down its autorickshaw booking services in March 2012, nine months after it started operations. AyAuto said that although it had a “great solution, but not a good business idea”. It is not clear if Autowale, another autorickshaw booking company had acquired it, but now it seems that Autowale is looking to get acquired by Jugnoo.

– In March this year, mGaadi signed up with Bangalore Police to address the prepaid autorickshaw system in the city, to run a pilot till March 2016, and its last update on the system was made 5 months ago.

– Last year, the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System (DIMTS) had launched an Android app called PoochO that enabled Delhi commuters to locate and book auto rickshaws near them. An NDTV report from October this year, indicated that the Delhi Government was looking to relaunch the app, bringing all of Delhi’s 90,000 autorickshaws on the platform.

– Other players include the Ahmedabad based G-Auto, backed by the Adani Group and Indian Oil and launched in 2008 and AutoRaja in Chennai (however, its number is switched off).

What remains to be seen is if public transport aggregators and service providers will take off to replace the autorickshaw on-demand services or if we’ll go back to getting both buses and rickshaws simply off the street as we used to once upon a time.

Bottom Image Credit: Uber blog

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