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Uber to spend $1B over nine months for India expansion

The ride-hailing service says it wants to expand the number of rides it offers in India to a million each day, up from a reported 200,00 daily trips.

Uber plans to expand its India presence far beyond New Delhi. Uber

Car-hailing service Uber is looking to dramatically broaden its presence in India.

The company will invest $1 billion over nine months to expand across India, Uber said on Friday. The cash will be used to bring its service to more cities across the country, as well as to let the firm offer new products and payment options to customers, Uber said.

"Uber has grown exponentially in India, a global priority market for us, which has also quickly become the largest market geographically for Uber outside the US," Uber India President Amit Jain said in an e-mailed statement. "We are extremely bullish on the Indian market and see tremendous potential here."

Uber, which celebrated its fifth birthday last month, currently operates in more than 300 cities around the world. The company enables customers to hail a car and pay for a ride by way of a mobile app. Central to Uber's efforts is connecting drivers and riders in countries around the world.

In total, Uber operates in 18 cities across India. The company provides 200,000 rides per day there, according to Reuters, which cited industry sources. Jain said Uber has hopes of boosting that number to 1 million within the next nine months.

Still, questions remain over how willing some cities may be to welcome Uber, and whether the company will need to jump through regulatory hurdles to realize its vision.

As Uber has grown, it's increasingly faced criticism and controversy in several countries around the world. Indeed, the company's plan for rapid expansion in India could be met with challenges from Indian regulators who have proved difficult for Uber to work with.

New Delhi, India's capital city, has been of particular concern to Uber since last year when one of its drivers was accused of sexually assaulting a rider. Soon after, the service was banned by local regulators, citing inappropriate licensing. In January, despite its ban, Uber went back on the roads in New Delhi, saying that it was applying for a radio taxi license. In June, New Delhi authorities rejected the application and started impounding Uber cars.

Earlier this month, a court in New Delhi lifted that ban, saying Uber should be allowed to operate in the city if provided a license by regulators. The company's victory in the New Delhi court came after Uber petitioned the court, saying that its license denial was inappropriate. The company pointed to the same regulators approving the license of a local ride-sharing service named Ola. The courts agreed with Uber that it was being treated unfairly and the company will now have an opportunity to resubmit a license application. Meanwhile, Uber is allowed to operate in the city.

Uber's plan to invest $1 billion in India comes just a month after the company said it would invest the same sum in China. At that time, Uber said it would bring its service to 50 more cities in China during the next year, in response to a rapidly growing user base in that country.

Uber's investments are made possible by the nearly $6 billion in venture funding the company has raised over the past five years. Indeed, there's no shortage of investors who want to partner with the company. Uber has raised around $1 billion in a new funding round, according to a report Friday in The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Uber is valued at around $51 billion, according to the Journal's sources, making it the most valuable venture-backed company in the world.

Update, 2:45 p.m. PT: Added that a news report now puts Uber's valuation at around $51 billion.