Uber back in Delhi; Modi govt says must await approval

US taxi-hailing app maker Uber Technologies Inc has restarted services in India's capital after a ban following rape allegations against one of its drivers, but a government official said the company remains blacklisted.

Reuters| Updated: Jan 23, 2015, 17:25 PM IST

New Delhi: US taxi-hailing app maker Uber Technologies Inc has restarted services in India's capital after a ban following rape allegations against one of its drivers, but a government official said the company remains blacklisted.

Uber's app showed taxis available in New Delhi on Friday after the company applied for a radio taxi licence, a spokesman said. Just last month, the company said traditional radio taxi regulations were incompatible with a disruptive technology company that connects passengers with drivers.

"They can't start operations," said a senior transport official, who was not authorised to speak with media on the matter and so declined to be identified. "They don't have a licence yet, they have only applied for it. It may get cleared, we could request changes, or we may reject it."

The service restoration comes as Uber works to counter bans in countries such as France, Spain, Thailand and South Korea, imposed because some of its drivers were not correctly licenced. It has also had to contend with a reputation tarnished by further rape allegations against drivers in Chicago and Boston.

Its application in India comes after Uber partnered a taxi firm in Korea to comply with local regulations, and after Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick promised to create 50,000 jobs in European cities where Uber is able to operate.

Safety

India is Uber's largest market outside of the United States by number of cities covered, and the country's radio taxi market is estimated to be worth $6 billion to $9 billion.

But after the alleged rape last month, Delhi's government banned Uber and other taxi-hailing app providers from operating in the city. Uber later said it did not carry out background checks on drivers in India, and authorities revealed the suspect was on bail for sexual assault.

The case triggered protests and reignited debate about the safety of women in Asia's third-largest economy, especially in New Delhi, which has been widely dubbed India's rape capital.

Uber, valued at $40 billion last month, on Friday said it would introduce additional safety measures including more stringent driver checks, an in-app emergency button and a dedicated incident response team.

"We are setting an even higher standard than current industry requirements," Uber said in a statement. "Our commitment to make transportation safe in Indian cities has never been more absolute."

Local rival TaxiForSure told Reuters it has also applied for a radio taxi licence. Ola, backed by Japan's SoftBank Corp, has also applied, said a company official who was not authorised to speak with media and so requested anonymity. The apps of both companies are currently operating in the city.