Uber on Wednesday announced the launch of an on-demand, 24×7 auto rentals service in India. The service, currently available in six cities including Delhi-NCR and Mumbai, will allow users to book an auto and its driver for several hours with the liberty to make multiple stops along a journey. Uber already offers the option to commute via autos in the country, but the addition of the facility to book an auto for several hours is new. The introduction of the new offering is in line with “needs of citizens as they resume travel in the new normal,” the company said in a statement. Nitish Bhushan, head of marketplace and categories at Uber India & South Asia, said the firm understands that its customers will have “new use cases and different needs”, one of which is to book a ride by the hour to help get all the errands done in one go.
The launch of the auto rental service also comes at a time when Uber’s core rides business in India is yet to recover from the impact of the pandemic. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi had earlier this month said markets in Asia barring India were seeing a revival. Ride-hailing firms like Uber and Ola have seen a sharp dip in cab bookings as companies have allowed employees to work from home and people restricted non-essential movements. Public transportation in India remained suspended during the first phase of the lockdown and was only permitted to operate with partial relaxations beginning May.
Recent surveys indicate local consumers are opting for used cars for their daily commute. There is a rise in demand for cars in the Rs 4-6 lakh price bracket, FE reported in June. A Deloitte analysis showed 70% consumers want to avoid ride-hailing options altogether. The auto rentals service has been priced at Rs 149 for a 1-hour/10-km package with the option of selecting from multiple hourly packages that can be booked up to a maximum of eight hours. Announcing the company’s Q2 2020 earnings call, Uber had said: “We’re also adding auto rickshaws and motorbikes since we expect many riders in emerging markets to shift from public mini-buses toward these lower-cost options.”
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