Uber planning to cash on India’s $40-50 billion wedding market

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Uber is planning to cash in on India's $40-50 billion wedding market that witnesses its peak during the November-January period as it looks to find a new niche and overtake local rival Ola. The new service, dubbed UberWEDDINGS, will allow people to pre-pay for a specific number of rides at set denominations. Users can then share promo codes with their family or attendees who can avail free rides before or during the wedding. Uber's pre-paid wedding service comes soon after the government's move to scrap large currency bills and restrict withdrawal of new currency bills to only Rs 2,50,000 in the event of a marriage. The move is expected to hurt the market this wedding season which largely runs on cash payments. "This will enable the host to keep a track of their travel expenses without worrying about coordinating pick-ups and drops," the company said in a statement on Monday. Uber will make the service available across 12 cities - Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Ludhiana, New Delhi, Pune, Udaipur and Lucknow - which will be available till February next year. The company has partnered with WedMeGood where users will be able to buy packaged themes for parties, dinners and other wedding related events. Users will be able to customise the promo codes for specific invitations and print cards that can be handed out along with the invitations. While rival Ola is looking to deepen its reach in the Indian market by introducing more categories on its platform, Uber seems to be sticking to its basic cab hailing formula but gaining market share by focusing on events. In the US, Uber initially gained traction by deploying cabs at large sporting events and concerts. Both Uber and Ola claim leadership in the Indian market, but third-party data from analysts such as RedSeer say Ola continues to lead. After a humiliating exit from China to Ola's alliance partner Didi Chuxing, Uber is determined not to lose the Indian market at any cost. Apart from sinking $1 billion to grow its business in India, Uber has said it will also invest a substantial portion of the $3.5 billion it raised from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund in the country. Sensing competition, Ola too has been on the market to raise as much as $1 billion, but so far the round seems to be delayed over disagreements over the company's valuation.

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