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Amidst its struggle to find the missing piece for success in the Indian ecosystem against homegrown rival Ola, Uber is currently in the process of relaunching its auto service, UberAuto. As per reports, the service will be first launched in Bengaluru and Pune.

Uber users in these cities will soon find the ‘book an Auto’ option on the platform. As claimed by the company in an official statement, the Uber autos will be equipped with all safety features similar to cabs, with only verified and pre-screened drivers on-board. Also, users can pay via Paytm, cash, and debit/credit cards.

Earlier, Uber auto services were launched in April 2015 on an experimental basis in New Delhi, Coimbatore, Indore, and Bhubaneshwar. However, despite claiming positive response from the driver as well as the consumer communities, the company shut down the service just 7 months after the launch in December 2015.

As stated by Uber spokesperson to Livemint on the recent launch of UberAuto services, “The company had paused the service to see how that side of India’s transport ecosystem evolves. Auto rickshaws are ubiquitous to mobility options in many Indian cities. To expand transportation choices for our riders, we are excited to launch AUTO in Bengaluru and Pune.”

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Uber, under the leadership of its new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, is trying to make a comeback after a series of scandals and leadership issues faced last year. The company recently grabbed around $10 Bn from SoftBank at $48 Bn valuation (a 68.5% drop from earlier $70 Bn).

Incidentally, SoftBank is also a major investor in Uber’s Indian rival Ola, and had participated in Ola’s $2 Bn funding round in October 2017. Ola is already running Ola Auto services across 73 cities with over 120K autos associated with the company.

As cab-aggregators, both Ola and Uber offer almost similar options to users including carpool, ride pass, and more. In other segments, while UberEATS is already becoming popular in metros, Ola also acquired Foodpanda last month to set foot in the food delivery industry once again. Ola had earlier experimented with food delivery with its Ola Cafe in 2015, which did not take off that time and was shut down in March 2016.

Since the entry of Uber in the Indian ecosystem four years back, both the companies have been fighting the battle on similar war-fronts. However, Ola seems to be the dominant player now. Apart from cab and food delivery service, Ola is also trying to make its mark in the electric vehicle industry in partnership with Tata Motors. Also, the company has partnered with Microsoft to build a new connected vehicle platform for car manufacturers worldwide and will use Microsoft Azure to power Ola Play, the company’s existing connected car platform.

As claimed by Ola, this will transform driver and passenger experiences with vehicle diagnostics, improved in-car productivity, advanced navigation, predictive maintenance of vehicles and more.

Uber is currently functioning in India with 450K driver partners across 29 cities. Given that India is the second largest unit for the US-based cab aggregator, the company has big plans to strengthen its positioning in the country. With Uber Auto commencing operations in Bengaluru and Pune, and both Ola and Uber raising massive funding from SoftBank, where this war will head in the year 2018 will be worth watching.

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