Uber is looking to massively scale up its operations in India. It wants to change the way riders interact with the app with several new India-centric features. Uber, which has rolled out its new app, will add features like calendar integration, people search and advance booking to it in the coming months. Prabhajeet Singh, Head – Strategy and Planning at Uber tells Indianexpress.com the new changes have all been made after extensive feedback from Indian riders.
“There were a couple of things that we did to collect feedback before making the changes. One was on-the ground rider studies, where our engineers were watching rides in action and discussing with them for feedback. Second was analysing rider behaviour from the app and finally, getting feedback from our driver partners.”
He says the new Uber app loads 50 per cent faster as compared to the older one. Also, it now shows ‘Where to’ upfront making the UI quite simple. Uber has done away with showing estimated pricing for different Uber services separately, which now appear one after another at the bottom.There’s Dial-an-Uber webpage as well, something that lets users book rides outside of Uber app. The webpage has been optimised to work on slower networks. The company launched the webpage few days back after testing the same in four Indian cities.
“Many of the features are unique to India. We recognise that many of our geographies might not have effective 4G network coverage or good 3G networks but we’d want to serve riders at such places as well. The new app has been redesigned to load 50 per cent faster. The second feature is Dial-an-Uber that allows users to book cabs via webpage,” he explained.
Singh also talked about safety features for Uber riders as well, especially women. “We have a feature called ‘Share your ETA’ in the app, which allows you to share your location in real-time with your friends and family. There’s also a ‘SOS’ option in the app via which a rider can reach either PCR or our 24×7 help centre in case of an emergency,” he points out.
Soon, users will be able to integrate calendar apps with Uber to keep a track of important appointments and meetings. Once connected, Uber will show meetings as shortcuts in reminders. “The feature will be compatible with all major Calendar apps that are available out there,” he said.
Another upcoming feature includes the ability to book rides directly via your phonebook. The idea is getting to people instead of getting to a destination. For example, if you have to go to a friend’s place then you can directly choose his/her number from your phonebook. Next, Uber will text that person about your plans, and once approved, the app will book a ride for you based on your friend’s location.
“People use Uber to get to places, but often it is about getting to people. Therefore, we want to be able to just identify who do you need to meet. You don’t need to know their location at that point of time and via two-way communication, the app should be able to seamlessly take you to that person. The idea is it should be a magical experience for the rider, one which saves time,” Prabhajeet explains.
On whether Uber is planning to launch a counter to OlaPlay and he simply said, “We continue to work on features that will improve experience for our riders.”
However, the Uber app has evolved considerably especially in the US, where users can book a ride via a bot from Facebook Messenger. But the team doesn’t have a timeline for when the Uber bot will come to India. “I won’t give a specific time-frame but the way we look at it is we want to make it seamless for riders to interact with Uber via whichever platform they’re comfortable with. I see a lot of that coming as early as next few months,” said Singh.
Uber has opened up its API to developers as well and partnered with third-party aggregators to enable riders who’re planning their weddings to purchase Uber rides in advance and distribute it to their guests, friends and family. “The response is great. Within 4 days of rollout, we had almost 200 people requesting for our services,” he added.