Brand Virat Kohli will give Uber a huge edge in India: Experts

Leveraging on the cricket captain's mega appeal across age, language and cultural demography, Uber will definitely witness a major jump in its perceived value

by Madhuwanti Saha
Published - Mar 12, 2018 8:56 AM Updated: Mar 12, 2018 8:56 AM

So Uber has announced Indian skipper Virat Kohli as its first-ever brand ambassador in India. And the question on every marketers mind is: How fast will Uber benefit from this brilliant choice of an ambassador, someone whose mega appeal spans across all ages, language and culture? After Uber Global CEO Dara Khosrowshahi's recent visit to India this move to get Kohli onboard is clearly a reflection of Uber's aggressive stance to find a firm foothold in the country. 

Uber will now definitely witness a major jump in its perceived value is a given. Brand experts we spoke with maintained that it will definitely give Uber a certain edge over its arch competitor, Ola. 
Jagdeep Kapoor, Chairman and Managing Director, Samsika, explained, “Uber has made a strategic move to make a huge jump from being a commodity to a brand.”

Prior to this Uber even came out with its first integrated marketing campaign in India last year. The core theme was 'Apnapan', aimed at building its everyday brand relevance and reframe the idea of mobility in India.

Coming  down to the numbers, the US-based ride hailing service has presence in just 31 Indian cities compared to its homegrown competitor Ola’s 110. Ola increased its market share from 53 per cent in July 2017 to 56.2 per cent in December 2017, according to market intelligence firm KalaGato. 
During the same period, Uber’s share slipped from 42 per cent to 39.6 per cent. But this partnership will help the former get a grassroot level-mass appeal and certain edge over Ola, according to N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA. He says, “Customers will feel a slight difference. The other difference is that Ola is passenger-driven while Uber is driver-driven. The latter is now trying to connect with consumers with this new association.” But then Chandramouli is  also quick to add that Ola’s connected entertainment-offering car platform Ola Play has helped it score big over Uber. According to media reports, on the back of Ola Play the company has seen a significant jump in Prime rides.

Brand strategist Harish Bijoor also observes that between the two brands there is a run for premiere stake in terms of imagery. “If you look at Kohli he has the ability to give Uber that kind of imagery,” says Bijoor.

Kohli happens to be the first face of the company in the Asia Pacific region. Already a face of 20 brands, his current brand value is worth $144 million, according to a report by Duff & Phelps. Post the tie- up Kohli will also be involved in a series of innovative marketing and customer experience initiatives to be rolled out by Uber India, according to media reports. We tried contacting Uber to know about their future plans but there wasn’t any response at the time of filing this report.

Now all eyes will definitely be on Ola who definitely has to come up with a sharper marketing strategy. Recently the Publicis Groupe owned media buying firm Starcom India has secured media duties of Ola. Mails to Ola also went unanswered at the time of filing this story. It surely won’t be difficult for the Indian company to invest in an ambassador from its war chest, according to Chandramouli. But Ola has also taken a somewhat similar route last year when it roped in former cricketer Virendra Sehwag to flag off its year-long #FarakPadtaHai campaign on the World Environment Day on Twitter. This was soon followed by TVC launches, tie-ups with City Traffic Police departments, activations across colleges, corporate parks and metro rail stations and continuous engagement through their social channels to promote the use of its pool service Ola Share to reduce pollution. Interestingly, even Kohli had joined the campaign last November. 

In some way or the other Ola has always taken up relevant causes for its marketing strategy. For instance to discourage drunken driving, it came up with ‘#PeekeMatChala’ campaign featuring Indian comedy sketch group All India Bakchod (AIB). The most recent one was for International Women’s Day with a relevant tongue-in-cheek act by stand-up comedian Sumukhi Suresh.

Bijoor pointed out that battle is going to continue. He signed off with a prediction, “Like we had Cola wars in the past we could well have Cab wars in the future.”

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