Everybody tells Dara his name. In large part, it is related to his family name, Khosrowshahi, difficult to pronounce. But also with his affectionate and decimilar character, always tennis, never with tie and in general, wide smile. He was born in Iran, and for more than a year and a half he is CEO and Uber, the American company that has driven the revolution in transport services over the past decade, but today has his eyes on dozens of products from electric bikes and automatic "aerotaxis" machines that could be flying over the next two or three years.
Thanks to Uber's invitation, EL TIEMPO visited his offices in San Francisco, California, where his employees venerated him for taking him out of one of the worst moments when they were accused of discriminatory, sexist and concentrated practices. you get the most profit margin without paying much attention to the method.
Today, he says, the company is developing as an inclusive employer, part of the solution to mobility issues that affect most cities. And, above all, leave the language in most Latin American countries, such as Colombia, where it was not regulated.
In conversation, his first with a Colombian environment, he asks the government of Iván Duqueto the dialogue and announces for the first time the amount of taxes paid to the state this year.
It is obvious that they are interested in Latin America. What is it that attracts so much attention?
Not only are we interested, but we think it is a vital region for us. We invest from the beginning in countries like Argentina, Brazil and Colombia, because we believe that there is great economic and human potential. It is the fastest growing region and our main market in terms of the number of services offered. What we see is that we are a service that people love, a source of employment for thousands of drivers, which allows people to mobilize more effectively and generates economic and social development.
Sure. But there is also competition, with powerful rivals like Didi in China. They are already in Mexico and Brazil. And also local companies. What makes you think your product is better and will prevail?
The mobility business is gigantic and generates about $ 6 million ($ 6 trillion) a year. But when we see how people move to cities, ie cars, trains, buses, they realize that it is a sector that has not been transformed with technology at the level of others, or that it is in the primary stages of this transformation. I mean, there are great opportunities. We were lucky to be among the first to enter the region, but we welcome competition because we believe that this forces us to be better, to offer a better service. And most likely, this competition will continue for at least a decade. As we continue to innovate, as long as we continue to offer good and reliable service, we will continue to grow.
We were lucky to be among the first to enter the region, but we welcome competition because we believe that this forces us to be better, to offer a better service
They have been in Colombia for more than 5 years in other countries in the region and their legal situation is still in full swing. What is the main obstacle I find and what do I propose to get out of this noise?
What we are asking for is to establish a level playing field for regulations for all transport and mobility providers. Taxis have already regulated them, but we think that this regulation needs to be updated. Uber is a concept that will be an important part of how people move in any city in the world. We are ready to talk to the transport minister, to develop rules that are common sense and are right for all.
In that sense, what signals have you received from President Duque?
I think he has to be very busy. But what we believe is that we are powerful actors in the country. There are already 88,000 monthly drivers using the platform, and by the middle of this year we have already paid around 44,000 million peso charges as a result of our operations (which has not been revealed so far). We can be an economic engine for Colombia as generating partial and full-time jobs and paying taxes. The message you are sending is very clear: we are ready to be regulated in a way that is right for all.
Uber's message to the traditional taxi system appears to be: to adapt or disappear.
All models have to adapt, and if they succeed, they will be successful. Everybody has to move, and both taxis and Uber have a role. In the long run, what we want is not just to work on taxis, but also on buses and mass transit systems and to share all the information about how people move to cities and thus be able to be constructive actors in the way cities, bus stops, etc. are planned.
The success of Uber and others has been linked to the level of Internet access, smart phones and low-cost data plans. In Latin America, we stay behind. How long does it stop to expand this type of service?
Sometimes we have sinned, seeing things from an extremely Western perspective, where broadband infrastructure is abundant and mobile, stronger. But we are also self-critic and when we realized that we have set up a team in India that has developed an application for lower-end phones. It's called Uber Light and was launched in Colombia in September. Downloading it requires less space and requires less bandwidth because it eliminates things like a map that always appeared at first and took a long time to load. The application is super fast and efficient. That is, we make specific changes for a world where broadband is not always the same everywhere.
It's called Uber Light and was launched in Colombia in September. Your download requires less space and requires less bandwidth
The security issue in Latin America is complex, and robberies and abuses in this type of transport are frequent. How to adapt?
Safety is our most important initiative. And, as you say, all markets have different challenges. In the United States and other countries, credit cards and bank information are used to establish a person's identity and a good deal of history. But in Latin America, cash is widely used as a form of payment and, therefore, this form of verification is not possible. But we also use other types of filters. We require, for example, a link to Facebook and another form of user identification. This costs us in volume because some do not want to give this information. We have come to the conclusion that priority is a platform as secure as possible. We also use technology to improve security. We can know, for example, which areas of the city are less secure and at what point – through "info" collected from users and drivers – and design paths that avoid them.
What do you say to those who accuse Uber of contributing to pollution and congestion of vehicles?
Congestion and pollution are problems that each city has to face as more people head to urban centers. Today, 50% of the population is there, but the UN says it will soon be two-thirds. Whatever attacks are personal cars, which is the aggravating number of congestion, and for this reason our technology is designed to make cars more efficient and, at the same time, less relevant. Our first step was to get the personal cars used to mobilize more people and not just their owner. And that has reduced the number of cars on the streets and the space he occupies in parking spaces. The second was to look for people to share a career with others. This service, called the Uber Pool, raises even more cars off the streets. A third component where we invest a lot and hope to bring your region to the next (2019) are personal electric vehicles such as bikes and skateboards to mobilize people on smaller trips. The fourth axis of our vision is that Uber becomes a mobility platform for everything. We want public transport services – meters, buses and taxis – to be in Uber to provide the most efficient route.
Do you see a future in which the concept of a private car disappears?
It makes no sense for a person to have a car for his own use. On average, a car is used only 5% of the time. They are extremely low. We believe that combining all these services, such as the pool, added to electric cars and autonomous cars, will make the streets safer, quieter, and the cities will be cleaner and deeper. And they will make your personal car less and less necessary.
What is Uber's bet now that he bought the Jump bicycle service and entered the skateboard market?
Electrification of these individual vehicles is a revolution in itself. Did you use them? He asks. When you get into one of them you will realize that you feel like Superman. It does not require any effort. In San Francisco, the average travel time in cars is about 4 kilometers. But at least 30 or 40% of them are less than that distance. Imagine a world where we can replace those 30 or 40% of shorter trips with bicycle trips that are easy to handle and even get faster at the final destination.
He thinks Elevate, aerotaxis, is the future. Why?
We have the technology to develop a vertically climbing and descending vehicle that will be silent (electric) and safe and that we will be trading in 2023. As cities grew in the third dimension, transport must also do this thing.
SERGIO GOMMEZ MASERI
Special Representative of EL TIEMPO