Uber must win India to prove its merit: Will Khosrowshahi’s visit help it regain lost share from Ola?

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With probable pullout from Southeast Asia region, Uber’s bets on various continents and geographies have gone haywire. After bowing to Didi Chuxing in China, the global poster child of app-based cab-hailing surrendered to Yandex in Russia.

The Dara Khosrowshahi-led company is expected to sell its Southeast Asia business to Grab in exchange for a sizable stake. If Uber pulls out from SEA region, India is the only hope for the SoftBank-backed company, besides the local market (the U.S.A).

Even in India, things aren’t looking bright for Uber as local major Ola has scored a substantial 16 percent lead over former in terms of market share.

Ola has witnessed a rise in market share from 53 per cent in July 2017 to 56.2 per cent in December last year. Meanwhile, Uber market share decreased by about 2.4 per cent from 42 to 39.6 per cent during the same period.

Khosrowshahi is visiting India this week on his two-day trip. Before his visit to the country, Khosrowshahi has expressed that he and his company see India as a huge market as far as the company’s growth is concerned.

In fact, India is the only country outside the US where Uber has a chance to prove its merit at huge scale. It already had costly battle in China, Russia, and SEA region.

Recently, Didi Chuxing acquired a ‘controlling stake’ in Brazil’s ride-sharing startup 99 which throws a serious challenge for Uber. Additionally, Didi is also planning to enter into Mexico this year. The firm is also reportedly exiting from its Morocco operations.

Khosrowshahi is slated to meet the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu, as well as some of the industry titans.

Responding to the speculative merger deal with local player Ola on the lines of Yandex in Russia and Didi Chuxing in China, Khosrowshahi told ET “It’s too soon to tell but certainly fun to speculate about. Right now, my focus is on the quality of our operations and our teams – that is why I’m here.”

While the merger between the two majors can’t be ruled out as SoftBank owns a significant stake in both companies, its surety and timing can’t be defined. However, Khosrowshahi in a recent interview had said that it will leverage the profits it makes from developed markets in the US and Europe to continue to fund the losses of its Indian business.

India is the most important market for Uber after the US and Khosrowshahi and his lieutenants have to fight really hard and smart to outnumber Ola that had raked-in $2 billion from Tencent and  SoftBank.

Will Uber be able to win India or surrender it to Ola as it did in China and Russia?

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