Uber’s Allen Penn on India learnings and expansion plans
Allen Penn is the head of Asia Operations at Uber. Uber Bangalore has come out of its secret mode, and has launched post a rigorous testing phase. Allen shared with us some of the learnings from their testing phase and the modifications they are making to the business here in Bangalore.Some bytes from the conversation:
On the launch Bangalore team
We are extremely proud of our team, we have a super smart and committed team that gets all the local transportation challenges of Bangalore and India. We are very glad to bring a brand of transportation that is very reliable to India.
Improvisations post testing phase
We have been testing the market in India. We know that transportation is a very very local problem. Not just between different cities, but even between neighbourhoods. So after the testing phase, we have identified all the changes we have to make to the existing model, and we are now focussed on implementing these changes.
The types of vehicles that we might want to work with will be different from what we do in other markets here in India. We have Toyota Camry and Toyota Corolla that will cover majority of our fleet here. This will be the course-ahead from now on, and with that we have been able to reduce the pricing. We have reduced our prices during the testing phase, and we are further reducing it now during the big launch. With this price reduction, we are placed among 1.3/1.4 times the price of existing radio taxis.
What do Bangaloreans want?
In Bangalore, what we think is a core proposition is that people like it when they are shown the driver’s licence in advance. Also the fact that there is a feedback loop is important for everyone. We may have to emphasize these two value propositions in this market. We might not market the luxury and flash segment as much here, because that is not the culture of this place.
I joined Uber two years back. I set up the Chicago office of Uber, and then I moved to Asia to set up the office in Asia. We are in 5 Asian cities today. The way people look at transportation in all these cities is very different, the way they look at public transport versus chauffeur-driven cabs is very different, so the suite of products that people have in each city is different.
On working with local cab partners
Because of the strength of our local team, we are able to identify the best and reliable partners that we can work with. When you help people make more money, it is very easy to work with them. It is not like partners are difficult to work with; if Uber is not bringing them enough value, then they are not going to work with us, so we focus on our service first. This is the 43rd city we are in, we definitely have some institutional processes and practices to keep everything smooth, but we rely on our local teams to be very vocal and maintain those partnerships.
Hiring and expanding to other cities
Good people are always very hard to find. We at Uber look for people who are core entrepreneurial in their outlook, 2 out of 3 people from our Bangalore team were with startups in the past. There is a lot to do when you have to get your business off the ground. We treat Uber Bangalore like a startup. The kind of people that are attracted to Uber are very excited by that opportunity to help create a brand from the scratch. Also it is pretty cool to work for a brand that is helping create a safer city and provides easier transportation for everyone. So that is the opportunity our teams have in cities. We want to be in all major cities in India, in fact the pace at which we are able to hire people in each of these cities will dictate the timing and the order in which we will go to these cities.
We focus on hiring the right people and are completely focussed on execution, because in a startup there are a lot of things to do. We prioritize execution heavily at Uber. I believe that is our secret to success