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Uber’s Next Move To Win Over Asia Is Through Homegrown Apps

March 30, 2016, 12:12 PM UTC
The Hamptons Lure Uber Top Drivers Amid NYC Slow Summer Weekends
Th Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) is displayed for a photograph on an Apple Inc. iPhone in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. For San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. which recently raised $1.2 billion of investors' financing at $17 billion valuation, New York is its biggest by revenue among the 150 cities in which it operates across 42 countries. The Hamptons are a pop-up market for high-end season weekends where the average trip is three time that of an average trip in New York City. Photographer: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Victor J. Blue — Bloomberg via Getty Images

As the ride-hailing wars rage in Asia, Uber’s latest move is to infiltrate local mobile apps.

The San Francisco-based company announced what it calls the Ride Request Widget, which it is pitching at app developers worldwide. The widget is a simple software tool that can be embedded into other apps—letting users summon an Uber ride with just a couple of taps. Unlike the Ride Request Button the company released in December, the widget includes all the features and look of the main Uber interface such as a selector for users to pick between the different available ride services and estimated pick-up and drop-off time.

Though the new widget will be available for developers globally in mid-April, Uber’s emphasis on Asia with this new tool is hard to miss. In the blog post describing the widget, the company says it “dug in with developers in India, China and Australia to learn how they engage with the [application programming interface] and what tools they need to be successful.” One way Uber specifically catered to Asian markets is by making sure that the widget works well in areas with limited GPS coverage and bandwidth. That feature, Uber admits, came from feedback from developers in India and China.

Uber’s strategy and special attention to Asian app developers is understandable—it’s not a market leader in either of those countries despite the billions of dollars it has already invested in Asian market.

In China, for example, co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick has said Uber has roughly 30% to 35% of the ride-hailing market, though local leader Didi Kuaidi has argued Uber’s share is actually less than 20%. In India, Uber said last August that it holds about 35% market share.

So if grabbing more users in those markets through the front door in those countries isn’t so easy, Uber’s next plan seems to be to go through the backdoor, courtesy of local app makers.