Uber India shifts focus to B2C logistics services to beat pandemic blues

Photo: Reuters

Cab hailing platform Uber plans to expand its recently launched business to customer (B2C) and customer to customer (C2C) logistics services in India, while the country battles rising number of COVID-19 cases impacting regular business, said a top company executive.

The move comes at a time when the demand for urban mobility including cabs, rentals and shared vehicles has fallen sharply due to the pandemic. Some rental firms, which previously had large fleets of two-wheelers, have also begun selling off their assets. Taxi operators such as Uber and Rapdio have been stepping up partnerships with retail chains and e-commerce firms, signaling a temporary shift to a B2C model.

In April, the San Francisco-based company launched three new India focused products to support fragmented logistics networks of both retail chains and e-commerce firms. The country was under a strict lockdown in April, which choked supply chains of major retail and FMCG companies.

With logistics networks crumbling nationwide, startups including Swiggy, Uber, Dunzo, Drivezy saw an opportunity and began offering its own fleet of drivers and vehicles as last-mile logistics support to big offline retail firms and e-commerce firms.

Uber said that it completed more than 100,000 home deliveries in 11 cities under the last-mile delivery service, through partnerships with Big Basket, Spencers, Flipkart, Nature’s Basket, Delhivery, Tender Cuts, Medlife among others, which enabled the cab-hailing company to deliver essential supplies.

It also offered emergency cabs services during the three-month lockdown from April to June even as it was operating on a minimal vehicle fleet with restrictions on public movement.

Prabhjeet Singh, President, Uber India and South Asia said in an interview that the company chose to “realign” business priorities and launch new services that would fit the needs of its users during a health emergency.

“Coming out of the lockdown we are assessing our rider’s needs in the new normal and will determine which services we may want to continue along with launching new ones. Currently, all our services including Uber Essential, last-mile delivery, and Uber Connect are functional,” Singh added.

Uber launched C2C service named Uber Connect in April similar to Dunzo and Swiggy’s ‘Genie’ that enabled customers to send and receive parcels from each other and also order items from nearby shops and outlets.

Singh said that some of the most ordered items from Uber Connect include medicines, books, clothes, office equipment like keyboards and food items. Top tier cities such as Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru emerged as the cities with the highest volume of orders respectively.

Apart from home deliveries, Uber also kept a part of its cabs active and offered them under the Uber Essential service which offered emergency rides to locations such as hospitals and pharmacies. Uber Essential registered more than 45,000 trips in across Bengaluru, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Hyderabad, Indore, Mumbai, Nashik, Mohali, Ludhiana, Gurgaon, Patna, Kolkata, and Varanasi.

Uber’s decision to work directly with businesses and retail chains also comes shortly after the company sold its food delivery business to Zomato. The deal also included UberEats picking up a 10% stake in Zomato. Apart from India, Uber has exited at least eight food delivery markets in the past few quarters, according to its SEC filings from May 2020.

The article was first published on livemint.com.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.