Ride-hailing app Uber is seeing a strong recovery in demand across categories in India as people start to increasingly step out, even as the Covid-19 vaccination drive gains momentum. Uber is also ramping up hiring plans for its engineering centres in Bengaluru and Hyderabad as it seeks to leverage talent in India to build technology solutions for its operations globally, a top executive told Moneycontrol.
“I’m very, very encouraged to see the strong recovery across the category. As people have started to step out, we have begun to see a massive coming back of demand on the platform; we are seeing many more drivers being able to use the service to earn a livelihood; we have seen categories like Uber auto, Uber intercity and Uber Moto beginning to accelerate,” Prabhjeet Singh, President of Uber India and South Asia, said in a recent interview. However, some pockets are still subdued, as not all offices have opened and airport-related travel is yet to see huge traction.
Singh joined Uber in 2015 from McKinsey and took charge as the President of India and South Asia last July. He was tasked with leading operations across India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. As the pandemic began worsening in May last year, Uber let go of 600 people in India as part of a global exercise to reduce the size of its workforce. The ride-hailing company also shut its Mumbai office to consolidate operations, though it continues to operate in the city.
But the worst seems to be over for Uber, with Singh stating that it is looking to ramp up hiring as it sees India not just as a critical market for growth but also as a market that can deliver tech solutions to power its operations around the world.
“India is not just a critical market where we want to serve a larger rider base and driver base. It’s also a market where we want to build technology solutions for the world. So, we are ramping up hiring, for example, in our engineering centres in Bengaluru and Hyderabad, on a large scale. In fact, we have accelerated our hiring. We have launched multiple new cities over the last three months where we did not have operations earlier. Uber’s commitment to India is definite. Our success is deeply hardwired in the success of India,” Singh said.
Ola, Uber’s main rival in India, is also seeing a recovery in demand and plans to mass-produce Electric Vehicles through its entity Ola Electric to increase mass adoption. Ola founder and group CEO Bhavish Aggarwal recently told Moneycontrol that it plans to build electric 2-wheelers at scale, and eventually expand to 3-wheelers and 4-wheelers. It aims to start producing 10 million electric scooters a year, when the plant is fully operational in 2022. Uber, too, has been exploring partnerships and solutions, as it seeks to become a fully emission-free platform by 2040.
“Our commitment to providing a sustainable mode of travel is absolute. What that means is that we will in make investments as required. But at the same time, this is a collective responsibility, when multiple players have to come together. There have to be OEMs that have battery infrastructure, which has to be put together; there have to be ride-sharing platforms like us who have to play a role to match demand and supply so that people are incentivised to buy a vehicle and be able to bring clean vehicles to the platform. We truly believe alliances and partnerships are a way forward. We are in active dialogue with multiple State governments, the Central Government, OEMs, and players in the ecosystem to both bring our expertise and also offer a platform for rapid experimentation,” Singh said.
Uber said last week that it will offer free rides worth Rs 10 crore to support the Government and NGOs in vaccinating citizens. These free rides can be used for trips to and from authorised vaccination centres.