Everyone tells Dara his name. To a large extent it has to do with his surname, Khosrowshahi, difficult to pronounce. But with his pleasant and devastated character, always with tennis, never with a tie and generally with a wide smile. He was born in Iran and for a little more than a year and a half he is the CEO and the face of Uber, the American company that has been the spearhead of the transport revolution in the last decade, but today has eyes on dozens of products ranging from electric bicycles and automated to aerodynamic aircraft, which could fly the next two or three years.
Thanks to an invitation from Uber, EL TIEMPO visited him at his offices in San Francisco, California, where his employees worshiped him because he withdrew the company from one of his worst moments when they were accused of discriminating, sexist and focused practices. to get the highest profit margin without paying too much attention to the method.
Today, he says, the company emerges as an inclusive employer, is part of the solution to mobility problems affecting most cities. And, above all, leave the gap in most Latin American countries like Colombia where it is not regulated.
In the discussion, his first with a Colombian instrument, he asks government of Iván Duqueto initiate a dialogue and to announce for the first time the amount of taxes paid in the state this year.
Obviously, they are interested in Latin America. What is it that attracts so much attention?
Not only does it interest us, but we believe it is a vital area for us. We are investing in countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Colombia from the outset because we believe that there is great financial and human potential. It is the fastest growing area and our main market in the number of services offered. What we are seeing is that we are a service that loves the world, a source of employment for thousands of drivers, allowing people to mobilize more effectively and generating economic and social development.
Surely there is also the issue of competition, with strong opponents like Didi from China. They are already in Mexico and Brazil. And also local companies. What makes you think your product is better and prevalent?
The mobility business is gigantic and generates about US $ 6 million (6 trillion) dollars a year. But when we look at how people move in cities, that is through cars, trains, buses, they realize that this is a field that has not been transformed with technology at the level of others, or that it is at the forefront of this transformation. That is, there are great opportunities. We are 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 better service. And most likely, competition will continue for at least a decade. While we continue to innovate, as we continue to offer a service that is good and reliable, we will continue to grow.
We are lucky to be among the first to enter the region, but we welcome competition because we believe that this makes us better, to provide better service
It has been in Colombia for more than 5 years in other countries in the region and their legal situation is still unstable. What is the main obstacle they find and what they propose to get out of this cape?
What we are calling for is to create a level playing field for all transport and mobility operators. Taxis have already set them up, but we believe that this regulation needs to be updated. Look, Uber is a concept that will be an important part of how people move in any city of the world. We are ready to talk to the Minister of Transport, to develop regulations that have common sense and are just for everyone.
In this sense, what signals have you received from President Duque?
I suppose 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 about 44,000 million pesos in taxes as a result of our operations (which had not been revealed so far). We can become an economical engine for Colombia as part-time and full-time workers and through the payment of taxes. The message we are sending to you is very clear: we are ready to be regulated in a fair way for everyone.
The Uber's message to the traditional taxi system appears to be: either to adapt or to disappear.
All models need to adapt and if they do, they will be successful. Everyone has 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 on how people move in cities and thus can be constructive factors for how city planning, bus stops, stations, etc.
The success of Uber and others has been linked to the level of internet access, smart phones and low cost plans. In Latin America, we are still lagging behind. How long does the expansion of this type of service stop?
Sometimes I have sinned watching things from a very western perspective, where broadband infrastructure is abundant and mobile, stronger. But we are also self-critic and when we realized that we created a group in India that developed an application designed for lower-capacity phones. It is called Uber Light and started in September in Colombia. Taking it takes less space and requires less broadband connection because it eliminates things like the map that always appeared at the beginning and it took a lot of time to load. The application is extremely fast and efficient. That is, we are making specific changes for a world where broadband is not always the same everywhere.
It is called Uber Light and started in September in Colombia. Your download takes up less space and requires less broadband
The question of security in Latin America is complicated and the robberies and abuses in this kind of transport are frequent. How do they adapt?
Security 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 identify a person's identity and a large part of his story. But in Latin America, money 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 recognition. This costs us because some do not want to give this information. We have come to the conclusion that the priority is a platform as safe as possible. We also use technology to improve security. We can, for example, learn which areas of the city are less secure and at what times – with "information" collected by users and drivers – and the design routes that avoid them.
What do you say to those who accuse Uber of contributing to vehicle pollution and congestion?
Congestion and pollution are problems that each city has to face as many people move to urban centers. Today, 50% of the population is there, but the UN says it will soon be two-thirds. Observe what are the attacks on private cars, which is the aggravating number of congestion, and that is why our technology aims to make cars more efficient and, at the same time, less relevant. Our first step was to use personal cars to mobilize more people and not just their owner. And this has reduced the number of cars on the streets and the space they occupy in the parking areas. The second was to look for people to share a career with other people. This service, called the Uber Pool, takes even more cars out of the streets. A third component to which we invest a lot and hopefully bring to your area soon (2019) are electric vehicles such as bikes and skateboards to mobilize people on shorter journeys. The fourth axis of our vision is that the Uber becomes a mobility platform for everything. We want public transport services – counters, buses and taxis – to be at Uber to offer the most efficient route.
Do you see a future in which the idea of a private car disappears?
It makes no sense for a person to have a car for his own use. On average, a car of these is only used 5 percent of the time. It is enormously inadequate. We believe that the combination of all these services, such as the swimming pool, added to electric cars and stand-alone cars, will make the roads safer, quieter and cleaner and safer. And they will make the car less and less necessary.
What is Uber's bet now that he has bought the Jump Bike Service and is entering the skateboard market?
Electrification of these individual vehicles is a revolution in itself. Did you use them? He asks. When you get to one of these you will realize that you feel like Superman. They do not require any effort. In San Francisco, average travels to cars are about 4 kilometers. But 30 or 40 percent is less than that distance. Imagine a world where we can replace 30 or 40 percent of the shortest bike trips, which are easy to handle and even reach the final destination faster.
He believes Elevate, aerodynamics, is the future. Why;
We have the technology to develop a vehicle for vertical climb and descent that will be silent (electric) and safe and will be released from 2023. Just as cities have grown in the third dimension, transport must also be done.
SERGIO GOMMEZ MASERI
Special Envoy of EL TIEMPO