Uber’s launch will help spur competition in the taxi business that has the likes of Careem, Al-Bayrak and Savaree in its sphere. PHOTO: SHAHRAM HAQ/EXPRESS
LAHORE: In a development that would definitely spice up the transport business in Lahore, Uber Technologies – a global taxi-dispatch service app – has formally begun operations in Punjab’s provincial capital.
The launch comes at a time when Punjab is taking the lead in not only upgrading its road network, but also refining the landscape of the transport sector through the Metro bus and various taxi scheme projects.
Loic Amado, Uber’s international launcher for the Middle East and Pakistan, said Lahore’s “incredible interest” motivated the company to start off the project in Punjab.
“Cities choose us,” Amado told The Express Tribune on the sidelines of the official launch of operations on Wednesday. “The interest has been incredible in Lahore and we are extremely excited to be launching here first.”
Pakistan’s e-commerce sector has been witnessing exceptional growth recently, spurred more by the advent of 3G and 4G services that has revamped the way global companies look at the country as a viable investment destination.
Lahore’s contribution to the growth of e-commerce is another reason why Uber has kicked off the project in the city, Amado added.
What competition is like
The transport sector in Lahore has already seen massive changes in the past few decades with Metro buses and Rickshaws catering to the needs of millions living in the city.
Uber’s launch comes at a time when other taxi-based services are also trying to get a hold of the market share as they move people away from hailing transport on the road to booking them online. One of them is Careem, while Turkish company Al-Bayrak and Madeeha Hassan’s home-grown Savaree are also vying for the space.
The $62.5-billion company, however, believes its attractive pricing mechanism coupled with promotional offers could make competition fierce – a development that always benefits the general public through driving prices down and making more choices available. Uber intends to charge Rs13.7 per kilometer.
“The fare is low enough for even those people who have cars,” said Amado. “We are looking for efficiency and the pricing will make sense. “Low oil prices will also help us keep the fares low. In terms of competition, we are looking forward to it as it will not only provide people with more choice, but also improve the quality of cab service in the city.
Uber started its operations seven years ago and has since spread to nearly 400 cities worldwide. Surprisingly, the company doesn’t own its fleet of vehicles. In Pakistan, it is collaborating with local groups who are interested in renting out their vehicles.
Amna Asim, Uber’s marketing manager for Pakistan, said the company was also considering hiring female drivers. “If females can drive cabs in Cairo then why not in Pakistan,” said Asim.The company has had its share of controversy, but Asim said the company was making the necessary checks to ensure smoother operations.
“Every potential driver must undergo a screening process before they can register with Uber, which requires all necessary documents along with a police verification certificate and a social referral character certificate,” she said.
Further, riders can share the estimated time of arrival or a live map with friends or family who can track their progress and know when to expect them. Keeping in view the trend of making online payments, Uber is also working with the banking sector to facilitate the usage of debit cards.
By Shahram Haq Published in The Express Tribune