Everyone tells him Dara, his first name. In large part, this has to do with his last name, Khosrowshahi, difficult to pronounce. But also with his affable and uncomplicated character, always in sneakers, never with a tie and usually with a wide smile. He was born in Iran and for just over a year and a half he is the CEO and face of Uber, the American company that in the last decade has led the transport services revolution, but today its eyes are on dozens of products that go from electric bikes and automated cars to "aerotaxis," which could be flying in the next two or three years.
Thanks to an invitation from Uber, EL TIEMPO visited him in his offices in San Francisco, California, where his employees venerate him for having taken the company off one of its worst moments when they were accused of discriminatory, sexist and focused practices . obtain the highest profit margin without paying close attention to the method.
Today, he says, the company is emerging as an inclusive employer, it is part of the solution to the mobility problems afflicting most cities. And above all, leave the limbo that you find in most Latin American countries, like Colombia, where it has not been regulated.
In conversation, the first with a Colombian medium, he asks government of Iván Duqueto announce for the first time the value of taxes paid to the state this year.
Clearly they are interested in Latin America. What attracts so much attention?
Not only are we interested, but we believe it is a vital region for us. We invested 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, that allows people to mobilize more efficiently and generate economic and social development.
Of course But there is also the competition issue, with strong rivals like Didi from China. They are already in Mexico and Brazil. And also local businesses. What makes you think your product is better and will it prevail?
The mobility business is gigantic and generates about $ 6 million (6 trillion) dollars a year. But when you look at how people move in cities, that is, through cars, trains, buses, they realize that it is an industry that has not been transformed with technology at the level of others or that is at the primary stages of that transformation . That is, there are great opportunities. We were fortunate to be among the first to enter the region, but we welcome the 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 deliver a service that is good and reliable, we will continue to grow.
We were fortunate to be among the first to enter the region, but we welcomed the competition because we believe that this compels us to be better, to offer a better service
They have been in Colombia for more than 5 years and in other countries in the region and their legal situation is still in limbo. What is the main obstacle you encounter and what do they propose to get out of this quagmire?
What we are asking for is to create a level playing field in terms of regulations for all transport and mobility providers. Taxis have already regulated them, but we believe that this regulation should be updated. Look, Uber is a concept that's going to be an important part of how people move in any city in the world. We are ready to talk to the Minister of Transport to develop regulations that have common sense and are fair to all.
In that sense, what signs did you receive from President Duke?
I think he must be very busy. But what we believe is that we are strong actors in the country. There are already 88 thousand monthly drivers that use the platform and, in the middle of this year, we already paid about 44 billion pesos in taxes as a result of our operations (a fact that had not been disclosed until now). We can be an economic engine for Colombia as generators of partial and full-time jobs and through the payment of taxes. The message we send to you is very clear: we are ready to be fairly regulated for all.
Uber's message to the traditional taxi system seems to be: either it fits or disappears.
All models must adapt and, if they do, they will succeed. Everyone needs to move, and both taxis and Uber have a role. In the long run, what we want is not only to work with taxis but also with buses and mass transit systems and share all the information about how people move in the cities and thus be constructive actors in how cities are designed . bus stops, stations, etc.
The success of Uber and others is tied to the level of internet access, smart phones and low-cost data plans. In Latin America we are still behind schedule. How much is preventing the expansion of this type of services?
Sometimes we sin looking at things from a very western perspective, where the broadband infrastructure is abundant and mobile, more powerful. But we are also self-critical and when we realize that we have assembled a team in India that has developed an application designed for smaller capacity phones. It is called Uber Light and was released in September in Colombia. Its download takes up less space and requires less bandwidth because it eliminates things like the map that always appeared at the beginning and took too long to load. The application is super fast and efficient. That is, we are making specific changes to a world where broadband is not always the same everywhere.
It is called Uber Light and was released in September in Colombia. Your download takes up less space and requires less bandwidth
The question of security in Latin America is complex and the thefts and abuses in this type of transport are frequent, how are they adapting?
Safety is our most important initiative. And, as you say, every market has 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 their history. But in Latin America money is widely used as a form of payment and therefore this form of verification is not possible. But we use other types of filters. We are demanding, for example, a connection with Facebook and another form of user identification. This costs us in volume because some do not want to give this information. We conclude that priority is as secure a platform as possible. We are also using technology to improve safety. We can know, for example, which areas of the city are less secure and at what times – by "information" collected from users and drivers – and design routes that avoid them.
What do you say to those who accuse Uber of contributing to the pollution and congestion of vehicles?
Congestion and pollution are problems that each city faces as more people move toward urban centers. Today, 50% of the population is there, but the UN says it will soon be two-thirds. Uber that attacks are personal cars, which is the number one aggravating congestion, and so our technology aims to make cars more efficient and, at the same time, less relevant. Our first step was to pick up the personal cars used to mobilize more people, not just their owners. And that has reduced the number of cars on the streets and the space they occupy in the parking lots. The second was to look for people to share a career with others. This service, called Uber Pool, takes even more cars off the streets. A third component in which we are investing a lot and hopefully soon to bring to your region (2019) are personal electric vehicles, such as bicycles and skates, to mobilize people on smaller trips. The fourth axis of our vision is that Uber becomes a mobility platform for everything. We want public transportation services – meters, buses and taxis at Uber to offer the most efficient route.
Do you see a future in which the concept of a private car disappears?
It does not make sense for a person to have a car for their own use. On average, such a car is only used 5% of the time. They are tremendously underutilized. We believe that the combination of all these services, such as the pool, along with electric cars and stand-alone cars, will make the streets safer, quieter and cities cleaner and free of traffic jams. And they will make the personal car less and less necessary.
What is Uber's bet now that he has bought the bike service Jump and is entering the skate market?
The electrification of these individual vehicles is a revolution in itself. You already used? He asks. When you enter into one of them, you will realize that you feel like Superman. They do not require any effort. In San Francisco, the average travel in cars is about 4 miles. But at least 30 or 40 percent of them are less than this distance. Imagine a world where we can replace 30 or 40% shorter journeys for easy-to-handle bike trips and get to the final destination faster.
He believes Elevate, the aerotaxis, is the future. Because?
We have the technology to develop a vehicle for vertical ascent and descent that will be quiet (it is electric) and safe and we will commercialize from 2023. Just as cities grew in the third dimension, transport must also do so.
SERGIO GÓMEZ MASERI
Special Envoy of EL TIEMPO