Signalling the arrival of competition in the mobile wallet market, the country’s largest telecom operator Bharti Airtel on Friday tied up with US-based online taxi aggregator Uber, entering a domain rival Paytm had a monopoly on till now. The tie-up is comprehensive in the sense that not only can consumers using Uber cabs pay through Airtel’s mobile wallet called Airtel Money, they would also get to use free 4G-speed WiFi in the cabs. This service begins in Mumbai and would slowly be rolled out in other cities by Uber.
While there was no exclusive arrangement between Uber and Paytm and similarly there’s no exclusivity in the Airtel-Uber tie-up with regard to the payment aspect part, it means that very shortly other mobile wallet service providers — telcos like Vodafone and Idea Cellular are present in this segment — would sign up with cab hailing or other e-commerce apps, heightening competition in the segment, which would lead to consumers enjoying a plethora of benefits.
Any e-commerce-related offer has to come with added freebies and, therefore, new Uber riders who top up their Airtel Money wallet will get a chance to earn up to R500.
For Bharti Airtel, which on August 6 launched its 4G service across 296 cities, the move also offers it another competitive edge over Reliance Jio which plans to launch similar services from December. Under the agreement, the company has become the official telecom partner of Uber across the country, whereby it would support Airtel’s growth by offering mobile, data and device plans to Uber driver-partners. By providing 4G WiFi experience to the travellers for free, the telco would bank on word-of-mouth publicity for its newly launched services.
When asked how the Airtel-Uber arrangement would impact its prospects,Paytm founder CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma declined comment.
But surely, the fight is going to be interesting if certain facts are taken into account. Paytm has around 85 million mobile wallet subscribers, and while Airtel does not share its Airtel Money subscriber base, the fact that its total mobile subscriber base is around 230 million gives it a distinct advantage over any rival. Further, for standalone wallet service providers like Paytm, cash can be loaded into the subscribers’ wallet only through credit cards, debit cards or internet banking, while in the case of a mobile operator like Airtel, there’s an additional choice — to load it through cash by hopping into any of its retail outlets.
“Our partnership with Uber is directly in line with our commitment to offer innovative and relevant services for our customers. Now, Uber riders can enjoy the convenience of paying through their Airtel Money wallets, while also experiencing the power of blazing internet speeds with Airtel 4G on the move. We are excited that Uber has chosen Airtel to fulfil its telecom needs, and look forward to supporting the company’s rapid growth across India,” Srini Gopalan, director, consumer business, Bharti Airtel, said.
“We are thrilled to join forces with Airtel to deliver solutions that elevate the Uber experience for riders and drivers throughout India. This unique partnership is built on our shared visions and strengths of broad, reliable networks and connecting people to their world, anytime, anywhere,” said Amit Jain, president, Uber India.