Uber may have had its share of challenges in the Indian market, but the ride sharing app has been growing at over 40 per cent month-over-month here.
In fact, Bangalore and Kolkata are some of the fastest growing cities for Uber globally, Eric Alexander, Head of Business, Asia, Uber told Techcircle.
The San Francisco-based company is readying plans to replicate its success in other tier two and tier three cities over the next six months. In line with this strategy, Uber is scouting for new faces to its local management team here. It recently named former Rent.com official Amit Jain as the first president for India operations.
However, the team at Uber India has their work cut out. The regulatory overhang over Uber, which started after a passengers’ sexual assault by an Uber driver in December, continues to play out. It has been facing ban calls in Delhi and other places. Earlier, it came under the RBI scanner over its payment system which automatically debited a user’s credit card after a ride.
However, Alexander is focusing on the positives. He is confident of moving towards an amicable resolution on the licensing issue with the Delhi Government. Further, he claims that that Uber is very close to market leader Ola in terms of overall market share in India. (Alexander did not respond to a follow question for more colour on this)
According to him, success in India is a global priority for the company. Edited excerpts from an email interview.
1) For the first time, Uber is set to have an India President in Amit Jain. Tell us a little more about Amit and why he is the right person to lead Uber in India at the moment?
In this role, Amit will be running all business strategy, operations, and growth in a market of global strategic importance for Uber. He is a proven leader and strategist with a depth of experience in consulting and leading operations for multinational companies. Amit embodies the entrepreneurial spirit and culture at Uber. His experience as an operator in building and scaling world-class teams will be invaluable as we enter the next phase of Uber India’s growth. Success in India is a global priority for us, and I know Amit’s leadership and passion for Uber’s mission will be transformational as we redefine urban mobility for hundreds of millions of Indians.
2) Uber and Ola are generally spoken in the same vein in India. However, there is a huge gap in size between the two players (Ola is said to be India’s largest cab hiring startup). How does Uber plan to scale up the business?
We often get asked this questions but I think history is proving we are doing fantastically well and growing at an incredible pace. In fact, I’m not sure where the impression of the huge gap comes from.
Many would be surprised how incorrect those assumptions are! We have been very focused on building our India business and are very close to Ola in terms of overall market share. Over the next six months, we will be expanding to a number of tier two and tier three cities, and strengthening our growing footprint across India. Under the leadership of Amit, we’re confident of surpassing our competitors and I’m quite sure that you will be asking the same question to Ola in the near future.
3) Does Uber have plans to launch UberFresh or a similar variant of the service in India? If yes, then what sort of timeline are we looking at?
There are not immediate plans to launch uberFRESH or a similar variant of the service in India. We are experimenting with products like uberFRESH in other markets. Similarly, we are developing bespoke solutions for the India market on many fronts including safety, payment options and products. A few examples are: in-app safety features like Send Status and SOS; uberAUTO in Delhi; cash payments in Hyderabad.
4) Recently, the Delhi government rejected Uber’s application for license. What is Uber’s nest step going to be?
Our commitment to serveing the Delhi community and supporting our partner drivers who share the same commitment remains as strong as ever. We look forward to engaging closely with the Delhi Government to move towards an amicable resolution of the licensing issue and move towards a safer Delhi.
5) Recently, again there were instances of sexual molestation and misbehavior in two different Indian cities. Uber had put in place different safeguards to prevent such untoward incidents but such instances keep coming to light. Any further tightening of standards in India?
It is important to understand that Uber has brought unprecedented levels of accountability and traceability to transportation for the first time. In fact, with Uber riders are assured that if their ride was unsatisfactory for any reason they have a guaranteed avenue for recourse and an absolute assurance that appropriate action will be taken. This has never existed before.
Safety of our riders and drivers is our highest priority. Our teams globally and in India continue to work tirelessly to develop new solutions, innovative systems and processes to ensure we are able to consistently improve and enhance safety for riders and drivers.
6) Is Uber open to acquisitions in India? What kind of assets would attract the company? Is Uber open to acquisitions in the larger logistics space?
Uber is always open to exciting opportunities that are good for our business.
7) Uber recently launched auto-sharing service in India. How is that service scaling up?
uberAUTO was launched in Delhi a few months ago and has been doing fantastically well. It’s been a game-changer for many auto drivers in Delhi who were earlier limited to line-of sight pick-ups. These drivers are now able to use Uber’s lead generation technology to pick-up riders from a larger area and earn more money. The social impact is also fascinating; uberAUTO has become an introduction to smart technology, GPS navigation, electronic banking for many of these auto drivers. The impact that Uber is having on the lives of drivers and the positive feedback they have to share with us is what keeps our teams so motivated.
8) Uber recently started accepting cash payments in Hyderabad? Will the company look at extending this service to other 10 cities as well?
Cash payment is currently an experiment we are running in Hyderabad only. It would eventually be extended to other cities across India as well as other emerging markets around the world where cash is still the dominant mode of payments. However, we are still in very early stages of this test and we’re excited to see the results in the months ahead.
9) What is the expansion roadmap for Uber in India? Will the company look at adding tier two and tier three cities to its network? If yes, then which cities are on Uber’s radar?
Expansion is definitely on the cards and you will see Uber entering many more tier two and tier three cities this year. We aren’t able to provide specific details on the cities at this time but we will have more news to share on that front in the coming months.
10) Could we get some statistics on how many rides Uber are facilitated in India, the number of customers shared and other related datapoints. Would be interesting to know how that would compare with other countries where Uber operates…
Unfortunately we don’t share this information. But India (along with China) is one of the largest markets for Uber after the US and also one of the fastest growing. In fact, cities like Bangalore and Kolkata were some of the fastest growing cities for Uber globally. We continue to see robust 40 per cent month-on-month growth in India as more riders and drivers use Uber everyday.