Getting more people into fewer cars, a challenge, says Uber official | Sunday Observer

Getting more people into fewer cars, a challenge, says Uber official

Head of Cities Uber India and South, Prabhjeet Singh Pic: Chaminda Niroshana
Head of Cities Uber India and South, Prabhjeet Singh Pic: Chaminda Niroshana

Uber, the world’s largest on-demand ride sharing company, celebrated a milestone in the Sri Lankan market, reaching three years of operations and plans to expand its footprint.

“We are humbled and honoured by the reception we have received from Sri Lankan clients,” said Head of Cities Uber South Asia, Prabhjeet Singh said.

“Growth in the Sri Lankan market is exponential, and it is the highest rate recorded at present.

“We have introduced new features to acknowledge the positive response from customers and are happy to serve them in a more holistic manner,” he told the Business Observer.

He said that expanding the footprint is necessary considering the needs of customers who wish to travel in a safe, convenient and comfortable manner.

Excerpts:

Q. Uber has introduced new features. What is its relevance to the local market?

A. The new dimensions are three-fold. Uber launched an insurance scheme and safety toolkit in Sri Lanka. It also enables riders to reach 119 directly from the app.

The riders and driver partners can claim insurance for accidental death, permanent disability, medical expenses, and liability towards third parties.

The insurance scheme is a first-of-its-kind for riders and driver partners in Colombo, the 11th largest city in South Asia for trips.

Both commitments come as Uber completes three years in Sri Lanka, one of its fastest growing tuk tuk markets in South Asia. We are proud to celebrate three years in Sri Lanka and are humbled by the goodwill we have received from our riders and driver partners. In Colombo, we have already enabled micro-entrepreneurial opportunities for over 25,000 driver partners.

To reiterate our commitment to this market, we launched our safety toolkit, with its inbuilt emergency button, and no cost insurance coverage for riders and drivers while using the Uber App.

In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to engage with our driver partners and riders to work towards using Uber, which remains the most attractive opportunity for driver partners and the preferred choice for our riders.

Q. What are the features in the safety toolkit?

A. The safety toolkit is a one-stop-shop for technology enabled safety features for riders using the Uber App. It enhances safety features available to riders in Sri Lanka and improves awareness and usage rates of some existing and newly introduced features.

Riders can access the safety toolkit on the home screen of the app from the moment the driver accepts a trip right through to its conclusion.

Q. Why have you introduced an insurance cover for the rider and driver partners?

A. As one of Sri Lanka’s largest general insurers, Allianz is pleased to partner with Uber to bring the best-in-class insurance expertise to meet the evolving protection needs of customers.

“We are confident that our innovative insurance solutions will bring optimum protection and peace of mind to all driver partners and riders.”

Q. Can you elaborate more on the features in the safety toolkit and insurance scheme for riders and driver partners?

A. Riders can find safety tips built in partnership with law enforcement agencies in the safety toolkit and learn about our insurance protection schemes, and community guidelines. This puts key safety information and features for riders in one place, which riders tell us is helpful.

With the safety toolkit, riders can also access the trusted contacts feature which enables riders to designate up to five loved ones with whom they can be regularly prompted to ‘Share Trip’.

The riders can modify the settings to share all trips, night-time only trips, or none at all.

There is a button to be used in an emergency. We are launching an emergency button for riders to have direct access to 119, the police control room.

This will be placed under the shield button in the safety toolkit umbrella and will offer a quick swipe feature for riders during an emergency.

The insurance for riders and driver partners underwritten by Allianz Lanka Insurance Ltd., will be offered at no cost to the driver partners, giving them peace of mind while enjoying the flexibility of independent work.

Q. How is Uber harnessing technology to find more ways to improve rider and driver safety?

A. The core value of Uber is safety. We are doing right on product pricing. The exponential growth in the Sri Lankan market is testimony to our concept. We consider Sri Lanka to be the fastest growing market in South Asia and the world for that matter. We ensure delighting customers who patronise our service.

Uber’s mission is to bring reliable transportation to every place, for everyone. We started in 2010 to solve a simple problem: How do you get a ride at the touch of a button? Eight years and more than ten billion trips later, we have started tackling an even greater challenge: reducing congestion and pollution in our cities by getting more people into fewer cars.

Q. What are the expansion plans and product ideas regarding safety in the pipeline?

A. We are at an early part of the launch. We have to go a long way. Our other operation, Uber Eats is receiving an overwhelming response. We are encouraged by this positive attitude of customers. We will continue to work on multiple innovations. We will first establish our service in Colombo and develop inter-city services and then expand to other major cities. However, our first focus will be Colombo city. Our inter-city service is also gaining popularity.

The integration of safety to our service will boost operations here. Sri Lanka will be the tuk tuk capital in the world. Its success is measured by the driver partners and customers.

Q. How do you plan to expand your customer base and provide a better service to them?

A. We have already taken a novel approach to the vehicle rental industry. We will be localising our operations to meet customer demand and this is our commitment. We have an algorithm to identify system failures. We educate and re-train drivers and rider partners.

There is a customer service centre for any support and to provide extra mental comfort. There is a feedback process after a trip where there is a dual rating system in place. With technology, we can solve most of the issues that come up with regard to our operations, and are on the way to build the safety concept. The ability to reach out to law enforcement agencies is a plus factor in our service offering.

The impact of Uber on society and the ecosystem is significant, and the platform helps women drivers to grow in multiple performances, which is a unique feature. We have 35 women drivers and they are a valuable team in our operations.

Q. How do you see the competition with the other players in the market?

A. Our competition is with private vehicle owners. Buying a tuk tuk is a huge investment. It creates individual entrepreneurs who use their assets. We always believe that competition make us better. We continue to learn from competitors. Uber reliability is the key to the service. With expansion, Uber will have a big presence in the local commuting industry. 

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