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Puppies out, bite vanishes

- Uber woos with canines amid court relief

New Delhi, July 8: The dogs went around. And out went the "bite".

Delhi High Court today set aside a state government order rejecting Uber's licence application, the ruling coinciding with a "mid-week stress reliever", a company marketing blitz that saw podgy puppies being ferried in its cars to offices where employees cuddled the little dogs.

Executives at ad firm Ogilvy and online restaurant guide Zomato, for instance, tweeted pictures showing them playing around with two fluffy puppies, Pebbles and Fido.

The scheme rolled hours after the all-clear from Justice Manmohan, who said the US-based firm could not be discriminated against when rival Ola and subsidiary TaxiForSure had been granted relief last month by the court from the ban imposed after a executive's rape in an Uber cab last December.

The puppy drive and its selection of corporate hubs too appeared an attempt to regain the trust of office-goers after the backlash and blow to its reputation following the rape.

In the court, Justice Manmohan said the state could impose strict conditions to regulate app-based taxi companies like Uber, adding he did not favour a complete ban. The government has been given 10 days to frame the conditions.

"A decision will be taken on the application made by petitioner (Uber) and communicated not later than four weeks thereafter," the court said, disposing of Uber's plea against a June 3 government order rejecting its plea for a fresh licence after the previous one was revoked over the rape.

However, Uber and other such app-based services - called aggregators - continued to operate during the ban, prompting police to impound nearly 500 vehicles. The drive appeared to have slowed a bit since Ola won the relief last month.

Asked whether Uber continued to ply during the ban, senior manager (marketing and partnerships) Saad Ahmed said: "I cannot comment on that."

The silence contrasted with the attention-grabbing puppy drive, launched in a tie-up with pet products firm DogSpot, between 1pm and 4pm today.

Uber users could book a "puppy visit", much like cabs. But unlike the taxi rides, the 20-minute puppy visits, with volunteers in tow to take care of the packs, came free.


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