The company behind taxi-finding app Uber plans to launch the service in a number of cities in Southeast Asia in the next two months.
Uber launched in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur last week and will launch in another city in the region this week, the company’s head of Asian expansion, Allen Penn, told TechCrunch.
The company recently started a low-key pilot in Manila in the Philippines, pointing to a launch there soon. The company is also recruiting a general manager to cover the city, along with a similar role for Bangkok, Thailand.
Google Ventures poured $258 million into Uber in August 2013, valuing the company at $3.5 billion. Part of the funding was earmarked to fund international expansion.
Southeast Asia has high mobile penetration and a growing base of affluent customers willing to spend money on luxury products which Uber wants to tap into.
The company is targeting users who travel frequently throughout the region for business and want a reliable taxi calling service they can use in different cities.
The cashless transactions enabled by Uber should also prove attractive with relatively low credit card penetration in several of the countries being targeted.
Uber was deployed in 12 Asian cities in 2013, starting with Singapore. Penn said the cities were targeted for being “the most straightforward from a regulatory perspective”.
The company appears to be preparing to take on potential regulatory and legal issues with the recruitment of a legal director for the Asia Pacific region.
The service hasn’t always been welcomed by local regulators or taxi drivers who fear it will negatively impact their work.
Trials of taxi-hailing apps in New York City were temporarily halted last year because cab companies argued that using the apps to book taxis count as pre-arranging a service — something they felt is part of their remit.