Uber COO Barney Harford is on his India visit and unlike the CEO Dara Khosrowshahi’s polite attitude towards the rival Ola, he seems to be quite aggressive on taking a better positioning in India.
A media report quoted Barney Harford saying that Uber would stay put in India and will step up its investments in the country to take on arch-rival Ola. “We will be doubling down investments in India mainly into people, products and strategic partnerships in the country. India is a core market from Uber for now as well as the future,” he said.
Uber COO further shared that the company’s recent deal with Grab in South East Asia has “freed up resources” which can help them serve their Indian audience better. In March 2018, Grab officially announced the acquisition of Uber’s Southeast Asia operations.
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.
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. He is on a four-day visit to India starting from April 17 this year and is looking to visit Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad.
He is here to meet government officials as well as business leaders. “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 an earlier media statement.
Earlier in February 2018, Uber CEO had also come to India for a two-day visit and had reiterated his commitment towards the Indian market. As he 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 and better products for consumers. In India, our greatest value here will be to continue and grow and invest in our product and business.”
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 the Australian markets like Perth, Sydney and Melbourne, where it is again giving a tough fight to Uber. As part of their continued focus on India, Uber promised to infuse a substantial portion of the $3.5 Bn it raised from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia into Uber India in 2016. Later in July 2017, the company invested $7.99 Mn (INR 51.64 Cr) into Uber India as per filings with the Registrar of Companies.
Speaking on future investments in the Indian market, Dara Khosrowshahi had stated during his India visit,“The investment is going to continue. If you look at our company, we are an alternative to taxis. But we want to become an alternative to car ownership. Car ownership turns into car sharing and that can solve all kinds of problems – traffic, pollution – which are real issues in India with the population urbanising more and more. And that’s worth a long-term investment for us.”
The continuous visits of Uber leaders to India indicates how desperate Uber is to take on a lead against the rival Ola. The atmosphere is further heating up in the country as the driver partners of both Ola and Uber are showing signs of rage on reduced incentives and are looking to float their own apps. Similar incidents have already happened in Mumbai and Bengaluru, where drivers have already launched their own app-based cab services.
Will the recent visit of Uber COO to India bear any fruits or will Uber be forced to wrap up its India operations as well, only time could tell.
Update 1, April 23, 2018: During his trip to India, Uber COO also reportedly said that unlike markets such as China, Russia and Southeast Asia where the company exited operations to local competitors, it is in a position of “strength” in India and it will not do deals for a minority stake. The statement came in line with the ongoing speculations regarding Ola-Uber major, as both companies are now backed by Japanese conglomerate Softbank.