NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Online cab-hailing company Uber will allow passengers in the Indian capital to book autorickshaws, the cheaper three-wheeled taxis, as part of a drive to boost its presence and compete with a local rival in one of its key markets.
Under the uberAUTO service, the company will not charge a fee for booking autorickshaws, users will be allowed to pay for the journey in cash, and the pricing will follow government fare rules, Uber said in a statement on Thursday.
The launch of the service in New Delhi marks a shift from the company's global business model. So far, Uber's mobile application that connects riders with taxis in cities around the world has charged customers through credit cards or other electronic payment means, but not in cash.
The launch in Uber's largest market outside the United States comes against the backdrop of stiff competition with India's biggest online cab-hailing company Ola, which already lets customers hail autorickshaws.
"There were a lot of people who were not able to use an Uber because cash payment was not allowed," Gagan Bhatia, general manager for Uber in New Delhi, told Reuters. "There is huge potential in this segment."
The launch comes at a time when Uber is battling regulatory uncertainty over how it will continue to operate in New Delhi.
Uber was banned in the city following allegations of rape against one of its drivers in December, but has found support from India's transport ministry.
Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Mark Potter