In the coming months, cab aggregator Uber plans to introduce several India-first innovations and is set to double down investments, according to its global COO Barney Hardford.

This comes at a time when Uber recently announced its exit from Southeast Asia after selling its business to local rival Grab at a 27.5% stake in the company. Uber also exited the Chinese market in 2016 and the Russian market in 2017 after selling off its operations to regional rivals. As Uber and its arch local rival Ola have a common investor Softbank, there were rumours of a possible merger in India. But in the short-term, Uber does indicate staying put in India to take on Ola.

“India is a core market for us. Investments in India are made using funds from profitable markets. The recent merger has freed up resources which we are going to invest across people, products and partnerships to better serve this country. We are doubling down on our investments in this country like never before,” Barney said.

Meanwhile, an Uber-commissioned-Boston Consulting Group’s (BCG) study, launched by Harford on Wednesday, indicates that Indian cities are 149% more congested than other Asian cities. The study conducted across Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Bengaluru reveals that on average, commuters take 1.5 times longer to cover a given distance in peak hours. This is currently estimated to cost just the four Indian cities over $22 billion per year and calls for viable ridesharing and public transportation models now more than ever.

Substituting ridesharing for private cars could eliminate between 33%-68% of the total cars on the road in these cities—going a long way towards eliminating congestion during peak hours, the study points out. “Ridesharing can be part of the solution to traffic congestion because it uses technology to get more people into fewer cars,” says Uber’s COO Barney Harford.

According to the BCG report Unlocking Cities: The Impact of Ridesharing Across India, up to 89% of people plan to buy a new car in the next five years. Harford fears that if car ownership trends continue in a similar way, traffic in Indian cities risk coming to a complete standstill in only a few years.

Globally, Uber has been proactive in promoting shared mobility for nine years now. This report has helped Uber better its understanding of the scope of ridesharing in the Indian market. Uber India and South Asia President Amit Jain sees a reduction in private car ownership and consequent expansion of public transit systems as a common goal of the government and Uber.

“We are delighted that India has embraced shared mobility in a big way, but we still have a long way to go. Together with the government, we aim to continue playing a key role in improving lives and cities,” says Jain. “Through this study, we are hoping to draw the attention of administrators and urban planners on how shared cars and mobility can be part of the solution versus individual car ownership.”

On an average, 25% of private car owners surveyed in Delhi and Mumbai expressed a keen interest in becoming rideshare drivers. An additional 43% were somewhat willing to consider the role to generate supplemental income.

Solutions offered in the report to decongest cities include reducing private cars, improving public transport adoption, and optimising infrastructure planning. The report also suggests that new transport infrastructure is not enough to address the problem as the existing infrastructure needs to be used more efficiently—such as ridesharing in private cars.

Overall, travel by public transport accounts for 19% and 54% of kilometres travelled in Delhi and Mumbai, respectively. The report also argues that this is exactly where ride sharing can play a part. “Ride sharing has the potential to act as a feeder to public transport, particularly if applications and incentives are developed to encourage inter-modal transport usage. Outlying areas without easy access to public transport would particularly benefit from this model,” the report says.

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