Uber experiments call and SMS based bookings in vernacular languages


In the era of app-enabled easy cab booking facility, Uber is testing the already tried and tested model of call and SMS-based cab booking service. The San Francisco-based company has, however, formulated a better idea for the Indian market than its peers like home-grown Ola.

Unlike the previous call-to-book a cab feature, Uber will provide this facility in vernacular languages to drive its growth on the back of people who can’t use smartphone, unable to navigate apps or the audience who still rely on the feature phone including old people.

To be sure, this is Uber’s first such pilot, which has been abstaining from such costly model of deploying call centre-based cab booking system.

According to a BusinessLine report, Uber India is piloting a call centre for riders to book a cab by calling its helpdesk. For driver-partners and in case of emergency help, Uber has deployed a call centre that can be contacted via SOS button within the app.

The aforementioned facility is available for select users and Uber is also doing all the homework to ensure the cost of maintaining a call centre for call and SMS-based cab booking service doesn’t affect its unit economics.

Vidhya Duthaluru, Director, Engineering, who leads Uber’s Customer Obsession team in India, will be working behind the project besides increasing the team size. As of now, Uber’s engineering division has over 500 employees based in Hyderabad and Bengaluru technology centres.

To recall, Uber was reportedly working behind building technologies to book a ride in India with low bandwidth connectivity or even without a smartphone. The in-app offline cab booking feature was pioneered by its arch-rival in India Ola in October 2016.

However, both firms have suspended the facility of offline cab booking service within the app. Entrackr has tried using the facility via several accounts in NCR (particularly Gurugram) but we couldn’t find it across apps of both ride-hailing firms.

Given that Uber is available in the top Indian cities where internet connectivity and struggle in using its app is not an issue, rolling out SMS or call-based cab-booking service will work for those who can’t understand English.

While focusing on vernacular languages might bring some traction in smaller cities, the hypothesis of roping in the elderly generation to use the app may not work.

Apart from Ola and Uber, Dubai-based ride-hailing app Careem also enables users to call a cab from the service simply by a phone call or even an SMS.

#Update: We have changed the headline after getting inputs from Uber. 

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