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Uber rides on India's movie craze to win users

By Alnoor Peermohamed & Raghu Krishnan
March 21, 2016 18:22 IST
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Uber's association with a movie, the first for the company in India, comes at a time when it is flexing muscles and splurging on hoardings and newspaper ads to get more customers.


Taxi-hailing company Uber has a new vehicle to ride - movies. 

The Silicon Valley giant plans to cash in on Uber Ohallo - a song in upcoming Telugu movie Meeku Meere Maaku Meme - which is due to be released next month, to launch its service in Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh.

In its two-and-a-half-year presence in India, Uber has promoted its brand only by offering free rides and through occasional ice-cream delivery.

However, its association with a movie, the first for the company in India, comes at a time when it is flexing muscles and splurging on hoardings and newspaper ads to get more customers.

Uber says it will soon control around 50 per cent of India's taxi-hailing market, a claim that is contested by its India rival Ola, which says it continues to lead with a 75 per cent market share.

As the competition heats up, both brands are looking to grab users that have never been on either of their platforms before, forcing them to boost their online presence. 

"It is a fresh marketing model for both. While the Uber Ohallo song will help publicise Uber in cities where it plans to enter, it will get us more people to come to theatres and watch our movie. It is a win-win situation," said Karthik Vamsi Tadepalli, executive producer of Nakama Planet Green Studios, which is producing the film.

Ola, too, has explored new means of reaching out to customers through an association with The Viral Fever, an online digital entertainment channel, for the latter's original online series Permanent Roommates.

By plugging its brand within the show and hosting interactive sessions with the co-stars, the company is aiming to create a connect with customers apart from building brand recall.

Meeku Meere Maaku Meme, roughly translated as 'You for yourself and I for myself' is a debut romantic movie by a bunch of under-30 electronic arts graduates who have in the past done short films to build their expertise.

The movie has support from Telugu film producer and distributor Allu Aravind.

"This is the first movie in India that Uber is associated with and such partnerships would only increase in the future," said an Uber spokesperson. "We are always open to figuring out new ways to engage our riders. Movie partnerships are one among them."

Uber gets its brand on the publicity material of the movie, while offering promotional codes for one-time free cab rides on its platform to the theatre and back.

In the past, Uber had offered free rides to users for the premier show of Ant-Man in India.

As India's taxi-hailing services hit the limit of acquiring savvy online users who can afford to use these services, the service providers are moving to offline mediums to bring on board new users.

Having a brand name is not enough to make inroads into smaller towns in India, especially with cut-throat competition in the taxi-hailing space, says brand consultant Harish Bijoor.

This will see offline channels such as billboards, hoarding and print media gaining traction.

"There is an umbilical connect between online and offline. The more you give offline enterprises access to online, you are going to push more offline people online. The best way to do this would be to make an offline person download the Uber or Ola app," added Bijoor.

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Alnoor Peermohamed & Raghu Krishnan in Bengaluru
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