Uber India’s operation is set to overtake the company’s U.S. market, which currently stands at number one.
The shift in market position comes as the ride-hailing app company prepares to tap into the vast business potential of rural India with its $1 billion injection for expansion, an Uber spokesperson told TechCrunch.
Despite intense competition from local ride-hailing apps in India, Uber is seeing a 40 percent month-on-month growth in its Indian market, which spans across more than 100 cities and towns.
“Over 80 percent of our total trips in India are happening in our top five cities (metros). Over the rest of this year and into next year, Uber will be expanding aggressively into new cities. Most of these will be tier two, three and four cities,” Uber told TechCrunch.
“There is still tremendous room for growth and expanding operations in the cities where Uber is already available. Our goal is to make Uber accessible for everyone, everywhere across the country.”
The company’s fast-paced growth in the second most populous country in the world has not just come by fighting legal battles, which it has faced in almost all of its markets worldwide, but by going a step ahead and customizing its approach for the Indian market.
India’s cash-driven economy, which has about 2 percent credit card penetration, led Uber to adopt a cash-based payment model. The company recently began accepting cash-for-service in four other major cities after running a pilot test in Hyderabad and launching cash-powered Uber rickshaw rides in New Delhi.
“We know that cash is a dominant payment option for millions in India, especially in small cities,” Bhavik Rathod, general manager of Uber Bangalore, told TechCrunch. “This [pilot] is part of our investment in India. We’re deeply committed to this country.”
Though Uber’s growth has quickly skyrocketed in the Indian market, it has been marred by legal challenges, such as a rape case in New Delhi, which led the government to shut its operation.
“We have worked closely with law enforcement to help bring the perpetrator to justice, and over the course of the first half of this year, we have launched a number of key safety initiatives in India,” the company said. “Those include re-verification of all driver partners with the police, additional background screening with First Advantage and the establishment of a dedicated local Incident Response Team to handle critical situations.”
Post-ban, the company upgraded its app to restart its business by including a panic button for passengers, which directly connects users to local authorities and also provided an in-app option to share ETA.
Currently, the company has partnered with over 150,000 drivers in 18 cities across India and hopes to provide over 200,000 full-time jobs by 2016.