Uber Gains From Mumbai Cab Strike as Drivers Protest Competition

As Mumbai’s taxi drivers sought to cripple the city with a one-day strike to protest competition from ride-hailing apps such as Uber, guess who rejoiced? Uber.

A union, which says it has 22,000 drivers as members, had appealed to the city’s 80,000 black-and-yellow cabs to stay off the roads on Tuesday, causing delays to commuters. Uber Technologies Inc. said it is committed to “keeping Mumbai moving no matter what.”

“Our teams and our thousands of driver partners will be working tirelessly to ensure there are Ubers available at the push of a button so no commuter is stranded,” the San Francisco-based company said in a statement.

Cab drivers in India’s financial capital have joined their peers around the world in protests that have brought cities such as Paris and Moscow to a halt as they lash out against online cab-hailing apps for luring away commuters, pushing down prices and eroding their incomes.

The taxi union in Mumbai is demanding a crackdown on unlicensed chauffeurs partnered by Uber and SoftBank Group-backed Ola Cabs.

“We want a level playing field,” said Sanjay Singh, a senior leader at the Swabhiman Union, which represents taxi and autorickshaw drivers in Mumbai. “Uber and Ola drivers don’t have permits like we do. We are earning less than half of what we did. It is threatening our livelihood.”

Swabhiman means “self-respect” in Hindi.

Uber, which said in July it plans to invest $1 billion to fan out to more Indian cities, is targeting 1 million trips per day in the next six to nine months. One of the Tata Capital Ltd. private equity funds invested in the company in August.

“India is one of Uber’s big priorities,” Amit Jain, Uber India’s president had said in an e-mailed statement then.

Uber has also upset regulators, who have sued or banned the company from California to Brazil.

The Competition Commission of India had ordered a probe in May into Ola Cabs following a complaint by a radio taxi operator after finding prima facie evidence of abuse of dominant position.

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