Uber ties with Internet arm of large media group in India

The company is facing scrutiny from Indian regulators and bad publicity in the country after an alleged rape by one of its drivers

Beleaguered by Indian regulators and bad publicity, Uber Technologies has struck a marketing and distribution deal with the Internet business arm of a powerful Indian media conglomerate, the Times Group.

For Times Internet, which already runs a shopping site and some media sites including the Web editions of the Times newspapers, the collaboration provides an opportunity to play a role in the booming market for ride-hailing smartphone apps.

Uber said in a blog post Monday that the deal involved an investment, but a spokesman declined to comment further. Times Internet will invest Indian rupees 1.5 billion (US$24 million) in Uber, according to the Economic Times, a group publication, which cited people familiar with the transaction.

"Marketing and distribution are a key part to our strategy for success in India and there is no better partner and platform for this than Times Internet with its print, radio, OOH [out-of-home], and digital marketing platforms that reach over 200 million Indians," according to Uber. The ride-hailing company hopes to benefit from advertising across Times Internet's platforms, the Uber spokesman said.

Describing India as its second largest and fastest growing market, Uber said its partnership with Times Internet is in line with similar deals to address local markets, such as with Baidu in China, America Movil in Latin America and American Express in the U.S.

Uber said in December that Baidu will invest in the company and also enable users of Baidu Map and Mobile Baidu, Baidu's flagship mobile search app, to connect easily with Uber drivers.

Regulators in Delhi banned Uber's service and asked it to conform to new radio taxi rules after the alleged rape of a woman passenger by a Uber driver late last year. The company is also facing problems in other countries like South Korea where its local operations chief and drivers are under investigation for breaking local rules. In Germany, its UberPop service was banned by a court in Frankfurt as it was found that private drivers operate the service with their own vehicles without the required licenses.

The Times Group is a powerful partner for Uber, as it controls some very influential media sites, which focus on new technologies and issues related to their adoption and regulation.

The competitive ride-hailing market has already seen a round of consolidation with the largest player, ANI Technologies' Ola, acquiring a smaller rival for $200 million. Ola has recently updated its app to allow users to order for food delivery.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

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