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Uber drives Middle East mapping a nudge of the IPO: source

BENGALURU (Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc is six months into a major mapping project that fills gaps in coverage of the Middle East cities ahead of a possible acquisition of regional rival Careem Networks, and this year the hotly anticipated initial public offering, according to a source with knowledge of the project.

FILE PHOTO: the Uber logo is displayed on a mobile phone, September 14, 2018. REUTERS/Hannah Mckay/File Photo

A team of 28 technicians and other employees who work for the Indian tech sector of the client Wipro, on the verge of completing the detailed mapping of businesses and public buildings in the Saudi arabian cities and has been asked to speed up work as the company eyes an ipo in April, the source said.

The team in the Indian city of Hyderabad has recently also been entrusted with the mapping of Egypt and is under pressure to work faster, the source added, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The costly and time-consuming exercise, it is essential to movements on the scale in what has become a key market for Uber, with the acquisition of the Dubai-based Careem and progress there is a litmus test of the Uber’s global ambitions after the abandonment of other Asian countries to local competitors.

It may also have served to strengthen the position of the company in conversation about the buy of Careem, which other sources told Reuters on Sunday ahead of a $3 billion acquisition this week.

Mapping is a largely manual process, made a block and a neighborhood at a time, heavy investment, and the data should be updated regularly. Cards are the basis of ride-hailing apps that shuttle passengers from one point to the other via a navigation app.

Careem, which operates in the Middle East, Africa and south Asia, had previously said it was the 45,000 km map of the region, saying that the deficits on the Google Maps in the Middle East coverage had been forced to spend on the project.

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Normal Uber makes use of a mix of allocation of resources, relying heavily on Google Maps and the increase of the knowledge of the streets and retrieve points with using its own mapping cars and equipment conducted by Uber drivers in their vehicles.

Uber’s website says its dedicated mapping cars are currently only in Canada and a dozen united states of america, after previously assigned, the united kingdom, France, Australia, Indonesia, South Africa, Colombia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, and Brazil.

Uber said the team in India was curating “Places” mapping data in Saudi Arabia to back-up the necessary fieldwork as the focus is on the creation of its own set of locations at which it can easily search for the pick-ups and drop-offs. It is different from the vector mapping data and is a database of fun destinations, the company said.

Uber said that it was not started in Egypt.

According to the source, the process at Wipro is three-fold; the beginning of the validation of existing data, verification of new data collected from fieldwork, and finally, manually tagging each and every business and institution on the own map.

The fieldwork is carried out by Uber’s people on the ground, that from company to company and take photos of the exterior sides of a building, a requirement in the marking of the location of an establishment. Employees at Wipro use of the official websites and social media handles, as well as the other resources, the fact-checking data, the source said.

Wipro said that it does not comment on specific clients. It was not clear whether Uber had agreements with other companies for the mapping of the region.

In the run-up to the ipo next month, Uber is expected to tout a global reach and a strong overseas markets and investors, the differentiation of the AMERICAN rival Lyft.

A Uber purchase of Careem, after it gave up on the markets in China, Southeast Asia and Russia, in the face of strong local startups, the Middle East, in the heart of that story.

A tie-up with Careem would also allow both companies to stop spending so heavily on infrastructure, as well as the subsidising of trips for passengers and poaching drivers with bonuses, which have generated losses for both companies.

Reporting Munsif Vengattil in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Heather Somerville in San Francisco; Writing by Patrick Graham; Editing by Dan Grebler

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