Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi is committed to investing further in the Indian market but also keeping a sharp eye on “eventual profitability”, as the U.S.-based cab aggregator ramps up operations in the country.
Speaking to PTI, Khosrowshahi said India is already among the top three markets (besides the U.S. and Latin America) for Uber and accounts for 10 percent of its trips globally.
India is a key component of our growth plan. In fact, it is one of our healthiest markets in terms of growth rates. We have over 3 lakh active drivers and we currently do over 10 million weekly trips. We think we can increase that by 5 or 10 times over the next 10 years.
Khosrowshahi emphasised that this expansion will require investment, “but as you mature, you also want to combine that investment with eventual profitability”.
“We think we’re on a good road there, we just don’t have a specific timeline in mind (for hitting profits). If anything, we’re leaning forward in India,” he said, adding that the company is confident about its competitive position in India.
Uber has been pumping in substantial funds to fuel its growth in India. In 2015, Uber announced an investment of $1 billion in the country to expand its services. It has also set up a response and support centre in Hyderabad with an investment of $50 million.
Asked about a merger with Ola was on the cards, Khosrowshahi said the company will “look at any deals that can add value to its partners and shareholders, but we believe in controlling our own destiny in India”.
There have been reports about Uber and rival Ola joining forces in the Indian market. The speculations got stronger after SoftBank – an investor in Ola – joined Uber as an investor committing over $1 billion. Apart from India, the two now also compete in the Australian market with Ola recently launching its services in Perth and Sydney.
According to sources, the two have help multiple rounds of discussions, including one just before Khosrowshahi’s visit in February this year but the two parties are yet to strike a deal. Both, Ola and Uber have declined to comment on whether the two are engaged in merger discussions.
An Ola spokesperson said the company is always actively looking for opportunities for expansion of its footprint. “Ola will always be an active and integral part for decades to come. SoftBank and all other investors are committed in realising this ambition,” the spokesperson had added.
Last week, Uber announced a deal to sell its Southeast Asian operations to rival Grab for a 27.5 percent stake in the combined entity. Prior to the Grab deal, Uber exited two markets – China and Russia.
Talking about the challenges in the Indian market, Khosrowshahi said the company needs to do more to get the app working for all Indians.
“Outside the U.S., we know that many riders have lower-end devices and are in areas with poor networks. Historically, we’ve not done a great job building for riders with those needs. That is changing, and we are committed to doing more,” he added.
The top executive, who took over the reins of Uber in August last year, said the company is investing heavily in research and resources in the Indian market to build solutions for the local market.
He cited the example of ‘Call to Ride’, a feature being piloted in Pune that lets people make a voice call to book rides (instead of the usual practice of booking rides through the app) from popular locations by providing a code displayed on a sign at a booking point. The company is also actively exploring use of electric vehicles in India on its platform, he added.
“India is one of the top three markets outside of the US, accounting for 10 percent of its trips globally. For me, India is a core market that we are going to really focus on going forward. I’m really excited by the opportunity ahead for Uber in India in the years to come,” he said.