“…starting this week, we are rolling out a new service that gives people the option to book an Uber ride via an official Uber WhatsApp chatbot,” read a post on Uber India’s blog. It means that Indians will not need to download the Uber app to book a ride as everything from user registration to trip receipts will be done within the WhatsApp chat interface, the post added.
Uber is going to introduce this integration in Lucknow first, followed by New Delhi. The company said that it is looking to roll out this service across India by next year.
The chat booking facility will not be limited to existing users, and even new users will be able to book a ride with their phone number. The company pointed out that the service is only available in the English language but they will introduce other Indian languages soon.
This is the first time Uber has introduced such an option in more than 60 countries where it is operational. It can also offer Uber’s mobility to more than 400 million Indians who use WhatsApp.
How will it work?
The post explains that WhatsApp users can book an Uber ride in three ways:
- Drop a message to Uber’s business account number
- Scan a QR code
- Click a link to open the chat window directly
Prospective riders will then have to provide their pickup and drop-off locations.
What about driver details? Uber will convey the name of the driver and license plate of the car in the chat. Users will also receive details like fare information and the driver’s expected time of arrival upfront.
The post said that the drivers’ experience on the platform will not be impacted if a rider chooses the WhatsApp chat facility.
Will the chat facility lead to compromised safety?
The company said that “riders get the same safety features and insurance protections” on using the WhatsApp chat facility.
- They will be able to track the location of the driver en route to the pickup point.
- Speak to them anonymously using a masked number.
- Safety guidelines will be explained in the WhatsApp chat flow.
- Users can reach Uber in case of emergencies by typing help during the trip.
- Uber’s customer support team will call the concerned user who selects the “emergency” option while on the trip.
- Riders will also have access to the safety line numbers for 30 mins after the trip’s conclusion.
WhatsApp’s many integrations
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market with hundreds of millions using the messenger daily to stay in touch with their family and friends, order groceries, and send payments.
- Push for E-commerce: The company introduced a shopping button for e-commerce in October last year. The feature allowed users to shop, and pay for goods and services via WhatsApp chats, according to BloombergQuint. WhatsApp’s business account holders can provide catalogues from the chat screen to customers who can then purchase directly, the report added.
- Catalogs: WhatsApp’s business users can use Catalogs, introduced in 2019, to create a storefront and menus for the products that they sell on mobiles until April this year. They can now use Catalogs on desktops as well.
- Search directory: The platform is also testing a feature to facilitate a search for local businesses within its app. The directory contains details of the shops and services akin to Yellow Pages. Matt Idema, Facebook’s vice president of business messaging, had told Reuters that India and Indonesia would be explored as candidates for the feature’s expansion.
- JioMart: The messaging app recently tied up with JioMart, Reliance Retail’s digital subsidiary, to offer in-app grocery shopping to Indians. Reliance announced this partnership in June this year and said that it is testing an initial set of integrations. The full “new commerce” solution linking merchants and consumers, is being launched across several pockets.
- WhatsApp Pay: The global messaging service launched its payment service in November last year, after two years of beta-testing. WhatsApp Pay’s market share stood at 0.0085% as of January 2021. NPCI approved increasing the user cap for WhatsApp Pay to 40 million recently. It is planning several investments to scale up its business in the coming months to increase its share and compete with the likes of PhonePe, Google Pay, and PayTM, among others.
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