Author(s): Raghu Gopal
Yesterday, both Uber and Ola unveiled motorcycle taxi services in the city of Bangalore, officially called Bengaluru, in India. Uber launched a service dubbed UberMOTO; Ola announced its own pilot programme for a motorbike taxi service in the city known as the Silicon Valley of India. The moves mark both companies' forays into practically every form of terrestrial wheeled transport.
Since launching in October 2013, India has become one of the biggest markets in the world for Uber, which expects to invest $1 billion in the country this year. Uber and Ola hope to grab a large chunk of the bike taxi market, which is seen as an affordable transport option that not only saves people time and money, but also helps cut down on traffic congestion. In a city like Bangalore, gridlock often slows traffic to six miles an hour. Both Uber and Ola claim they can cut down on commute times by taking advantage of the 3.8 million two-wheelers in Bangalore, more than three times the 1.1 million cars in the city.
The growing competition between US-based Uber and India-based Ola is putting increasing pressure on smaller local start-ups. As Ola and Uber work on rapid expansion plans across the country, lesser-known competitors such as Baxi, a motorbike taxi service operating in the city of Gurgaon, near Delhi, are expected to face increasing competition from their larger rivals with deep pockets.
All this is being enabled by India's smartphone growth spurt: as smartphone adoption rates surge in the country, Indian consumers are eager to use the same type of apps and services that have become so popular in Western markets. With the country's expanding tech-savvy middle class, the launch of Internet-enabled motorbike taxi services fosters competition in the country's transport services and contributes to India's app economy. The launch of two-wheeled taxi services with low prices will help Ola and Uber add big numbers to their customer totals.