It seems Uber’s relationship building exercise with the Indian government and business leaders is not over yet. Within two months of Uber’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s India trip in February, now the company COO Barney Harford is coming to India between April 17-20.
Barney was levelled up to the position of COO in January 2018. Earlier he was working as a Senior Advisor to the CEO at Uber.
An Uber spokesperson confirmed the development to Inc42.
Barney’s visit to India comes on the heels of the recent chaos created by the Uber and Ola driver fleet over the issues such as driver security, better incentives, and more.
As per reports, Barney will visit Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai. He will meet government officials as well as business leaders. “India is one of the core markets for Uber globally, and a focus for our investment in 2018 and beyond. Barney is looking forward to meeting business and government leaders in the country and discussing ways Uber can better serve riders, drivers, and cities,” said the Uber spokesperson in a media statement.
In February, Uber CEO left India with lots of positive vibes. He reiterated his commitment towards India and reaffirmed to make aggressive strides in India. “We consider India as one of our forts. How we perform as a company after 10 years very much depends on our success in India,” he said.
Uber is currently struggling to spread its footprint in India amid cut-throat competition with homegrown cab aggregator Ola. Uber is currently present in 29 cities across India, as opposed to Ola’s 110 city coverage. Also, recently Ola forayed into Australian markets like Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, where it is again giving a tough fight to Uber.
The company is also vying to improve its brand image as well as financials in the Indian landscape. Also, with Softbank being a common investor, the speculations around the merger of both are gaining heat as well.
So far, however, Uber is undeterred with the competition and speculations. As Dara specified during his India visit, “I respect them (Ola) – they are a very strong competitor. Competition makes us better and makes all better as it results in better partners, better products for consumers. In India, our greatest value here will be to continue and grow and invest in our product and business.”
Uber’s focus at the moment is to perfect its products and services for the Indian market. Most recently, the company launched its new partner app, marketed as, ‘Built For the drivers, By The drivers’. In his blog, Dara quoted that drivers are the heart of Uber’s service, but along the way, the company lost sight of that. “We focused too much on growth and not enough on the people who made that growth possible. We called drivers ‘partners’, but didn’t always act like it. Developing this app presents itself as a corrective measure to amend the “missteps of the past.” he added.
India is the largest market for Uber outside of its home market in the US. It also has two engineering centres in India (at Hyderabad and Bengaluru) with over 100 engineers.
With India being a core market for Uber, will the recent visit of its COO Barney Harford be able to help the company in reviving its position and attain a better product-market fit in the country, will be something to watch for.