New Delhi, Apr 12 (PTI) Uber COO Barney Hardford is slated to visit India next week during which he will meet government officials as well as business leaders.

Hardford, who took charge last December, will visit Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai during his four-day visit from April 17-20.

Confirming the visit, an Uber spokesperson said: “India is one of the core markets for Uber globally, and a focus for our investment in 2018 and beyond.

“Barney is looking forward to meeting business and government leaders in the country and discussing ways Uber can better serve riders, drivers, and cities.” Hardford’s visit comes within months of Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s India trip in February.

Uber is locked in an intense battle for leadership with SoftBank-backed Ola in India and has a presence in 29 cities.

There have been reports about Uber and rival Ola joining forces in the Indian market. The speculations got stronger after SoftBank – an investor in Ola – joined Uber as well as an investor by committing over USD 1 billion.

Apart from India, the two now also compete in the Australian market with Ola recently launching its services in Perth and Sydney.

According to sources, the two have held multiple rounds of discussions, including one just before Khosrowshahi’s visit to India but are yet to strike a deal. Both, Ola and Uber have declined to comment on whether they are engaged in merger discussions.

Uber has been pumping in substantial funds to fuel its growth in India. In 2015, Uber announced an investment of $1 billion in the country to expand its services. It has also set up a response and support centre in Hyderabad with an investment of $50 million.

“India is one of the top three markets outside of the US, accounting for 10% of its trips globally. For me, India is a core market that we are going to really focus on going forward. I’m really excited by the opportunity ahead for Uber in India in the years to come,” Khosrowshahi had told PTI in a recent interview.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.