There was a time when startup investor wisdom decreed it difficult, if not impossible, for Indian startups to compete with and win against global majors looking to expand into their domain in India. The Uber of India would be Uber, and the Amazon of India would be Amazon. On 21 January, when food tech major Zomato announced its acquisition of Uber Eats’ Indian business, that thinking went out the window.

According to a stock exchange filing made by Zomato shareholder Info Edge, the deal was an all-stock transaction, giving Uber a 9.99% stake in Zomato. Effective immediately, Uber will discontinue its food delivery operations in the country and redirect restaurants, delivery agents and app users to Zomato. Severance packages have been offered to the 250 employees still at Uber Eats India, with the added option to apply for other openings within Uber India.

The deal represents a reversal in fortunes that few saw coming when Uber Eats launched in the country, circa 2017. At the time, it was expected to leverage Uber’s popularity to displace incumbents Zomato and Swiggy. Indeed, when Uber Eats launched in India, it was part of an important strategic initiative for Uber worldwide. 

According to its IPO filings in March 2019, Uber Eats was catering more than 15 million meals a quarter, partnering with over 220,000 restaurants in 500 cities worldwide. In a subsequent financial update, Uber had said that Eats was hitting a revenue run rate of nearly $400 million per quarter and growing at more than 100% year on year. “The company hopes to keep expanding to be the first or second-place service in every market”, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi had said.

But at least in India, that never happened. 

Uber Eats never bettered its position as the #3 runner in India’s food delivery race. Instead, Zomato and Swiggy forged ahead, their appetites seemingly insatiable. The signs that Uber had given up the ghost in this battle have long been evident. Reports of Uber Eats India being up for sale but unable to find a buyer have swirled around for well over a year. The question, then, is what finally turned Zomato’s head? And, perhaps more importantly, what does this mean for the foodtech duel Swiggy and Zomato find themselves locked in?

To answer those questions, we need to retrace Uber Eats’ journey to obsolescence in India. 

Apples and Oranges

For Uber, adding food delivery on top of its core ride-hailing service was a representation of the “power of the Uber platform”. It wanted to leverage the large base of Uber drivers to offer new services to the hundreds of millions of users who were already active users of the ride-hailing app.

While this “super app” idea is fine on its own, the failure of Uber Eats in India shows that the devil is in the details.


Sumanth Raghavendra

Sumanth is a serial entrepreneur with more than eighteen years experience in running startups. He is currently the founder of Deck App Technologies, a Bangalore-based startup attempting to re-imagine productivity software for the Post-PC era. Sumanth’s columns appear regularly in leading publications. He holds MBA degrees from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and Thunderbird, The American Graduate School of International Management, USA.

View Full Profile

Available exclusively to subscribers of The Ken India

This story is a part of The Ken India edition. Subscribe. Questions?


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 200+ stories, archive of 800+ stories from our India edition. Plus our premium newsletters, Beyond The First Order and The Nutgraf worth Rs. 99/month or $2/month each for free.

Rs. 2,750


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

Rs. 500


Annual Subscription

12-month access to 150+ stories from Southeast Asia.

$ 120


Single Story

Instant access to this story for a year along with comment privileges.

$ 20



What is The Ken?

The Ken is a subscription-only business journalism website and app that provides coverage across two editions - India and Southeast Asia.

What kind of stories do you write?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics.

We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

What do I get if I subscribe?

For subscribers of the India edition, we publish a new story every weekday, a premium daily newsletter, Beyond The First Order and a weekly newsletter - The Nutgraf.

For subscribers of the Southeast Asia edition, we publish a new story three days a week and a weekly newsletter, Strait Up.

The annual subscription will get you complete, exclusive access to our archive of previously published stories for your edition, along with access to our subscriber-only mobile apps, our premium comment sections, our newsletter archives and several other gifts and benefits.

Do I need to pay separately for your premium newsletters?

Nope. Paid, premium subscribers of The Ken get our newsletters delivered for free.

Does a subscription to the India edition grant me access to Southeast Asia stories? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

Do you offer an all-access joint subscription for both editions?

Not yet. If you’d like to access both editions, you’ll have to purchase two subscriptions separately - one for India and the other for Southeast Asia.

Do you offer any discounts?

No. We have a zero discounts policy.

Is there a free trial I can opt for?

We don’t offer any trials, but you can sign up for a free account which will give you access to the weekly free story, our archive of free stories and summaries of the paid stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

Do you offer refunds?

We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Please write to us at detailing the error or queries.