It has been five months since Dara Khosrowshahi took on the mantle of one of the most troubled companies in the world. In the past year, San Francisco-based cab aggregator ‘Uber’ has seen it all – allegations of a sexist work culture, espionage, lawsuits – the list is endless. That’s when Dara was brought in as CEO to turn the company around.
As Dara Khosrowshahi answered everything from competition to culture; family to finance (which according to him, is the topic we Indians are always interested in), he presented a new light for Uber in the years to come.
INVESTMENT IN INDIA
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, said they believe the country to be a high-potential market and their motive right now is to drive growth here. This was Khosrowshahi’s maiden visit to the country and he disclosed that Uber plans to “go all out” in the country and invest aggressively going ahead.
Khosrowshahi also said that they have tough competition in India and Ola is an excellent competitor. “India is important – it’s a big bet with a growing market, the work ethic is terrific, and the plan is to make it the second technological center, after San Francisco. The entrepreneurial energy here is amazing!”, he said.
“I respect them. They are a very strong competitor. Competition makes us better as it results in better partners, better products. And it has played a part in how our service has developed here,” Khosrowshahi said.
He also added that while Ola is hyper-local and has that advantage, Uber has the support of global technology, which gives them an edge over its India competitor. But he accepted that Uber needs to understand Indian consumers better if they want to be at the next level in the country. He denied merger plans with Ola.
ON CHOICES AND GUIDANCE
Dara Khosrowshahi took over as Uber CEO in August 2017, after the co-founder Travis Kalanick was pressured by the company’s largest investors to step down from the position, following several controversies. His move to Uber was seen to be quite a challenge, as he joined the company at a time when it was embroiled in legal battles all over the globe and had drawn flak for its toxic workplace culture. “The best support”, he said, “was his wife. She had more faith in me than I had in myself”. Khosrowshahi, an Iranian immigrant, was previously CEO of ‘Expedia’ and has earlier worked with the media and Internet company ‘IAC’.
After the last year, decisions made by the company have been brought into the foresight with every move looked through with great scrutiny. “2017 was tough”, Dara says. It was growth without thinking what the consequences would be, without wanting to think over decision making. There was a required change in leadership in order to drive the company to success. So the plan is to make it the best from what there was and make Uber the beast in their field.
As far as their current plans are concerned, the company is growing incredibly quickly and is focused on their products. The current focus of the company is on growth, product, profit and market analysis. Investment in regions like SE Asia is going to increase. The goal is to find the mid way – acquisitions and deals – a healthy mix of organic growth and transitions. The top priority as of now remains the security of passengers and drivers. The goal, is to “Be the Amazon of mobility”.
When asked about his equation with Travis and the dynamics right now, he maintains that the transitions and the changes have been difficult on him but Travis is always there for him. He added that Travis is always looking for the best of the company and is always there to advice him whenever the need arises. “I have to make my mark and take it in the direction I believe in”, he adds in an assertive manner.
Dara reinforced his opinion of seeing himself as the “AMAZON of mobility” citing Jeff Benzos and considering him as his role model. He drew the analogy of the company going from non-profit in all spheres just like Amazon. The tapping potential in mobility, he believes, is amazing. Asset allocation as the business scales into new areas – pool and autonomous, food delivery, UBERAir, he says the cost of services are going to rival costs of car ownership. He believes in the ideology of obsession with the product and the product obsessed growth – it should not just be good on average but be good every single time. “Think not about what goes right but what might go wrong”. With over 15 million rides daily across the globe, he completely plans to the not just grow the company and increase this number but to do so holistically.
Despite its efforts to gain a stronghold in the Indian cab aggregator market, Uber’s journey has been fraught with challenges. Bogged down by burgeoning losses and a tarnished past that refuses to vanish, how successful Uber is in its ambitious expansion plans, under the leadership of Dara Khosrowshahi, remains to be seen.