Uber, the cab-hailing app, has announced a deal with English-language website Times Internet in India, a key international market for the company, where it has faced intense criticism after an alleged rape by one of its drivers and increasing competition from India-based apps.
The deal comes at a time when Uber is battling regulatory uncertainty about whether it can continue to operate in India's capital city. Uber was banned following criticism over inadequate screening of its drivers after one of them was accused of rape in December. Uber resumed operations in New Delhi in January after applying for a radio taxi license. That application is still under review.
Uber operates in 11 cities in India, its second largest market.
The deal will align Uber with one of India’s most influential news and marketing companies. Times Internet is the digital arm of the Times of India media group, a media conglomerate that reaches more than 200 million Indians.
Under the agreement, announced by Uber on its blog Sunday, Times Internet will work on promotions to increase awareness about Uber and help the U.S.-based taxi company localize its services for India. Times Internet will also make an investment of about $16 million in Uber, a company that is valued at an estimated $40 billion. Uber has similar marketing partnerships in place with other U.S. media companies, including Gawker Media and The Huffington Post, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The newly announced partnership is an extension of Uber’s strategy of teaming up with local companies to penetrate markets abroad. In December, Uber entered into a $200 million deal with search engine Baidu in China to increase its visibility, TechCrunch reported. Baidu also embedded a button in its search and map functionalities that allows its users to hail cars using Uber.
Uber has experienced regulatory issues in many cities around the world, facing intense heat from cab lobbies that say Uber's drivers don't comply with national standards. Thailand's Department of Land Transport banned the app on the same day Uber was suspended in New Delhi following the rape scandal.
Next to battling an image problem, the company also faces increased competition from Indian taxi services, with Mumbai-based cab-hailing app Ola reportedly raising as much $400 million in funding, TechCrunch reported.
Al Jazeera and Reuters