Earlier this year, Uber revealed plans to invest $500 million growing its business in India over the coming years. This week, the company began to dig into that allocation with a commitment to develop an advanced customer and driver response center in the city of Hyderabad.
Uber said it will spend over $50 million over the coming few years on the initiative, which the company revealed will house “hundreds” of new staff. Uber’s press materials are fairly vague and merely describe the center as “a state-of-the-art facility.” We checked in with a company spokesperson who described it to us as a kind of rapid response unit that is intended to improve communications with both Uber drivers and passengers.
The center will be charged with taking communication requests from across India, whether that be SMS, in-app or social media, and responding within minutes. The company has another such center in Phoenix, Arizona, but the Hyderabad facility will be its first overseas.
Uber’s plans for the city, where it is also testing cash payments with its first such pilot program, are the result of an interesting coming together with local authorities. Yes, Uber — a company known for taking on regulators and its foes directly; as we saw in France very recently — is working in tandem with authorities, who are no doubt excited by the financial commitment and potential jobs that will be created.
“Hyderabad was always the preferred choice,” Uber said in a statement. “The supportive and forward thinking government, deep talent pool, excellent real estate and high standard of living were key factors that influenced this decision.”
That’s not quite all. Uber — and the company was very keen to stress this — is working with Hyderabad authorities on new regulation for ride-sharing services. The exact scope of that partnership is unclear right now — per the below statement — but the U.S. company said more details will be revealed within the next month.
“Uber will work closely with the government to develop a new regulatory framework to be passed in the next four weeks for on-demand transportation technology aggregator services that are bringing unprecedented benefits to urban transportation and the lives of thousands of drivers,” Uber said in another statement.
“Uber will engage with T-Hub [government initiative to promote startups] and the government and explore synergies to foster the smart cities initiative and technological innovation in the city using big data analysis,” the company added.
This partnership is noteworthy because it certainly appears to follow the blueprint for how Uber sees itself developing worldwide. Yes, initially the service often causes incumbents and authorities worldwide to push back on the company, but it hopes that it can provide enough longterm benefits to change opinions and collaborate with governments and authorities for the future.
This latest push in India follows Uber’s expansion to seven more cities last week, taking it to a total of 18 in India, and the appointment of a country president to manage its business there. Uber’s main rival, Ola, raised $400 million in fresh investment this April to support its target of being in 200 cities across the country by the end of this year.