Meta and Uber Technologies have reached an agreement, so that users in India can book a Uber via the WhatsApp messaging platform.
The development is a first for the American ride-hailing giant, and is an expansion of WhatsApp’s capabilities in the Indian market, where it is widely used.
It also demonstrates how Meta’s WhatsApp app could be expanded in other markets in the future, as Meta seeks alternative revenue streams beyond just advertising.
Uber has been operating its ride-hailing services in India for the past eight years, and is now available in 70 cities in that country.
“…starting this week, we are rolling out a new service that gives people the option to book an Uber ride via an official Uber WhatsApp chatbot,” explained Uber in a blog post.
“Riders will no longer need to download or use the Uber app. Everything from user registration, booking a ride, and getting a trip receipt will be managed within the WhatsApp chat interface,” it said.
The integration is a world-first for Uber and the integrated service is rolling out first in Lucknow (a large city located in northern India).
From there it will be introduced to New Delhi, with the rest of India following suit in 2022.
The way it works is that WhatsApp users in India can book an Uber ride through three simple ways.
They can message Uber’s business account number; or they can scan a QR code; or they can click a link directly to open an Uber WhatsApp chat.
They will then be asked to provide pickup and drop off locations. Users will receive upfront fare information and the driver’s expected time of arrival.
Uber sought to reassure users that they will be covered by the same safety features and insurance protections as those who book trips via the Uber app directly.
This includes being informed of the name of the driver and license plate of the driver on booking; be able to track the location of the driver en route to the pickup point, and being able to speak to the driver anonymously using a masked number.
Currently, this option to book a ride via WhatsApp will only be available in English language but it will be expanded to other Indian languages soon.
Last month Uber confirmed it had raised its prices by 10 percent in London, the biggest increase in the city since 2017.
The price of a trip to the airport has also been increased by 25 percent during peak times.
The company says it is short of 20,000 drivers in the UK, and needs to raise prices to attract them.
The company isn’t reducing the commission it charges to drivers, instead it is passing the cost to passengers.
Uber is one of many companies hit by the unpredictable conditions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
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