Amit Jain, President, Uber India
For Uber Technologies, 2017 was nothing short of a roller-coaster ride. The most valued start-up was accused of having a toxic and sexist work culture; it saw exits of founder-chief executive Travis Kalanick; it wrapped up operations in China and merged its Russian business with the taxi arm of search engine giant Yandex. Investors took charge and brought in Dara Khosrowshahi to change Uber and the company ended the year with a big investment from SoftBank. Keeping the team together in this testing time, Uber India President Amit Jain is optimistic. He tells Karan Choudhury their position here would get reinforced in 2018. Edited excerpts:
What are the number of rides the company does during peak seasons such as festivals or New Year’s Eve? Has it gone up?
In 2017, we were focused on moving from being a start-up to a sustainable business in India. As a result, we recorded over 100 per cent growth this year and continued to clock well over a million trips a day. During festivals and special occasions like New Year’s Eve, we’ve seen a significant uptick in demand. For instance, on Christmas Eve, on an average, we saw 25-30 per cent increase in rides in our top cities.
Has the company drastically reduced discounting? Has the average fare per ride increased?
As a two-sided market, we reached a tipping point in India in 2017, where sustained high demand from riders and drivers allows us to begin reducing higher levels of incentives for drivers and discounts for riders. This helps us operate more efficiently and invest in a robust product mix and technology innovations perfectly suited for India.
Do you expect consolidation in the cab aggregation segment next year? Will SoftBank Group orchestrate a major consolidation?
We have no consolidation plans in India. We have a vibrant, growing business here that has great potential. We have barely scratched the surface in India. I can say our business fundamentals are stronger than ever and we’re keeping our heads down to build the best and most innovative products out there to serve riders, drivers and cities.
How much did the company invest in India in 2017? What are the investment plans for 2018?
We do not share these numbers but I can confirm Uber is in investing mode in India. We are investing in products, people, and processes. We are investing in a tonne of technology that can help us improve ETAs (expected time of arrivals), mapping and matching algorithms.
We are also building a robust product mix to address the needs of various customer segments: UberMoto, which cumulatively crossed five million trips this year; Hire, a time-based Uber that’s available on-demand; Intercity for a quick trip to a nearby city, and Premier, for consistent premium Uber experience at affordable prices. This year, we also inaugurated an engineering facility in Hyderabad. With more than 1,000 employees, we are committed to creating an inclusive workplace that fosters a culture of innovation.
What is the market share you are targeting next year? What is the market share Uber had in 2017?
Competition for us is private car ownership. Ridesharing apps account for less than one per cent of the number of vehicle trips that are happening at any given time.
The market potential, therefore, is huge, and we are just getting started. We are in a very strong position in India, winning hearts and minds as the most preferred ride-hailing app. We are growing incredibly fast, focusing on the metrics and features that matter the most: Reliability, quick arrival times and the best customer service experience.
How are you improving driver verification on your platform to prevent untoward incidents?
Safety of riders and driver-partners is paramount for us. We leverage technology to build safety into the Uber experience, before, during and after a ride, and have stringent processes when it comes to driver screening and verification. This includes a comprehensive onboarding process and background checks.
This helps ensure that the right person is behind the wheels. In 2018, we will continue to focus on technology innovations that will help ensure that only verified drivers have access to the Uber app, thereby ensuring a safe ride for riders.