India key market, here for a long ride: Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi
When asked about a possible merger with homegrown rival Ola, he said India was critical to Uber’s future. SoftBank is an investor in both companies.
“When we look at the key markets for Uber, both in terms of where we are today, but especially where we are going to be 5-10 years from now, India is going to be one of the most important success factors as to how we grow and how significant our brand is and how significant a part we play in people’s lives over the next 5-10 years,” he said in an interview.
When asked about a possible merger with homegrown rival Ola, he said India was critical to Uber’s future. SoftBank is an investor in both companies. “Whatever buzz there is or not, I am the CEO and consider India a core market for us, so that’s simple,” said Khosrowshahi, a featured speaker at the ET GBS that starts Friday.
Khosrowshahi may seek uniformity in regulations
“I want Uber to be a part of where India is going over the next 10 years. Right now, I am encouraging the team to invest more, not less,” said Khosrowshahi. “If you succeed in India, you can succeed anywhere,” he said in a separate media interaction.
“It is a value-conscious market — 10% of our trips come from India. And we expect it to contribute higher and higher,” he added, while acknowledging that “our operations are not profitable”.
Still, Uber may consider some form of collaboration. “We are very flexible, so we will look at anything that will create value first for our driver partners and our riders because if you create value there, then the rest takes care of itself. What structure it takes place in, whether that’s us or an alliance or M&A, who knows. But at this time, I am focussed on the organic part of the business,” he told ET. “I don’t want to categorically state, or characterise any discussions that we may or may not be having.
What I will categorically state — I consider India a core market and we are going to be investing in India and growing here for a long time.” With regard to the view of a Soft-Bank senior executive that Uber should move out of unprofitable markets, he told the media interaction: “They may have an opinion. But that’s not the only opinion in the room.”
He said he would discuss the question of uniformity in regulations during his meetings in India. “To the extent that we have got different regulatory burdens at every single local municipal authority… it creates needless complexity and that complexity takes away from the riders and drivers because it creates friction in the environment,” he told ET. “You want to create a regulatory framework that protects all the parties but doesn’t introduce unnecessary complexity and it’s a fine balance that we have to achieve. It’s a dialogue that we have to have with the government.”
Uber will be hiring more people in India. “Part of being more local for me means having more local talent building our products,” he said at a Niti Aayog event. “We are going to hire 3x and 4x of the engineering talent we have today in India this year and multiples of that next year. The talent in India is driven, smart and we want more of them building the Uber of the next generation.” He said Uber’s recent settlement with Alphabet on Waymo driverless car technology was a “win-win” for both companies.
At the Niti Aayog event, he said immigration was at the core of the US success story, criticising US President Donald Trump for wanting to restrict the flow of people.
“I think it is a shortsighted view and it is a bit of a reactionary view that our President is taking. I hope that over time we can return to our roots and become a country that welcomes people who want to come and those who want to work hard,” he said.
“I was extremely lucky to come to America at a time when immigrants were welcome. If you look at the CEOs of all the Fortune 500 companies, 50% of them are either immigrants or their parents are immigrants. If you look at Indian chief executives like Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella, they are incredible people.”