Uber COO Barney Harford Clarifies That Uber Is To Stay In India And Fight It Out With Ola


San Francisco-based cab aggregator Uber clarified on 18 April saying it is to stay in India and will increase its investments in the country to compete with arch-rival Ola, as per media reports.


Uber’s new COO Barney Harford said the Indian market has such a huge potential that the company won’t settle for minority stakes in deals here.

Harford’s comments come in the wake of talks of a merger of its India unit with homegrown rival Ola.

According to Harford, Uber has found itself with some freed up resources after its recent deal with ride-hailing firm Grab in South-east Asia. The company is due to  “invest across people, products and partnerships that can better serve this country and the cities that we operate in.”

“India is absolutely a core market, now and in the future. Uber’s success is hardcoded to India’s success…We are doubling down on our investments in this country like never before,”

said Harford.

Uber sold its South-east Asia business to bigger local rival Grab, getting a 27.5 percent stake in Grab, which was last valued at $6 billion in July. Uber has also exited China and Russia after selling their business to local rivals.

Harford, who took charge as Uber COO in December, is on a four-day trip to India. CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s visited India in February. Thus, speculation about a possible merger between Ola and Uber in India got intensified. The speculation was triggered by SoftBank– an investor in Ola – joining Uber as an investor and committing over $1 billion.

However, Harford refused to comment on whether Uber is holding merger discussions with Ola. Ola, too, has not spoken about it either. The two have reportedly held multiple rounds of discussions, including one just before Khosrowshahi’s February visit. But no deal has been struck yet.

Besides India, both startups also compete in Australia as Ola recently forayed into Perth and Sydney. In India, Ola continues to have a stronger hold, operating in 110 cities. Uber, on the other hand, runs its services only in 29 cities in the country, which is its largest after the United States.

Future plans

“We are not expanding to a lot more cities in India. The additional cities (that Ola operates in) account for a very small fraction of the total trips we book in the cities we are already present in,”

said Uber India and South Asia president Amit Jain.

The company feels the potential is more in the cities they are already present and intend to focus on them.

Harford also said they are working to make Uber Elevate, flying electric vehicles, operational by 2022. Uber has announced a partnership with India’s only electric car maker Anand Mahindra-led Mahindra & Mahindra to test drive 700 electric vehicles in Delhi and Hyderabad.

Rival Ola has announced it will introduce 10,000 three-wheeled e-rickshaws and electric auto-rickshaws over the next 12 months.

Also Read: Uber Acquires Electric Bike-Sharing Startup JUMP Bikes