Sri Lanka, a gem in Uber’s global portfolio - Saskia de Jongh | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka, a gem in Uber’s global portfolio - Saskia de Jongh

18 September, 2022
Asia Pacific Regional General Manager for Delivery at Uber, Saskia de Jongh  
Asia Pacific Regional General Manager for Delivery at Uber, Saskia de Jongh  

To support the country during its worst economic crisis, Uber recently announced a donation of USD 200,000 to the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society. This amount would be used to provide ration kits and critical medication to vulnerable communities.

Visiting global executive, Saskia de Jongh, Asia Pacific Regional General Manager for Delivery at Uber, spoke to Sunday Observer exclusively about the impact of the crisis, commitment to Sri Lanka, and the company’s future plans.

Q: What brings you to Sri Lanka?

A: I am absolutely thrilled to be here in Sri Lanka which is a critical market for Uber Eats. The primary reason for my visit is a critical milestone for us as we recently joined hands with Sri Lanka Red Cross Society in an effort to offer them USD 200,000 to support vulnerable communities.

I also wanted to be present here to meet our stakeholders and tell them how strongly we believe in the potential of this market, alongside thanking the team for their resilience during these trying times for Sri Lanka.

Q: Experts believe that the crisis has been extremely damaging to Sri Lanka. As an international corporation, is Sri Lanka a liability to you on your global balance sheet?

A: On the contrary, Sri Lanka continues to remain a critical market for Uber. It is not a liability but a little gem in Uber’s global portfolio.

Despite the macro-economic challenges that may exist today, we are fully convinced of the potential this market holds and the impact that we can make in Sri Lanka.

There is immense opportunity for growth across various business verticals. For us that will include adding groceries to what we offer, together with several other opportunities for our earners, merchants and customers.

Q: Has the crisis led towards lay offs in Sri Lanka?

A: Our teams continue to function in the same size as before and they have shown tremendous resilience. We are very proud of our team here in Sri Lanka and we have had no lay-offs. Instead, we have been focusing on making sure we help our communities, particularly earners on the platform. Launching our bicycle deliveries when there was no fuel is one such example. Our merchants and larger communities have been assisted with several other support measures.

Q: As the country continues to be under the shadow of the economic crisis, what is Uber Eats doing to support this market?

A: We have seen that our customers are very strong and resilient. It is clear that they appreciate what we offer to them. Of course, we did have challenges in making deliveries due to the situation but despite this, we have still seen very strong support from them.

We are seeing a big uptick in growth. I am very optimistic about the growth as we add more merchants to our portfolio. One of the ways in which we supported our customers during the last few months was by waving off commission entirely for essential grocery items such as milk, milk powder, and rice.

This enabled our merchant partners to procure these items with greater ease which ultimately paved the way for our customers to access these essentials.

Q: Tell us more about your partnership with the Red Cross.

A: The commitment that we have made is for USD 200,000 which is to be spent in two parts. First, we intend to procure medical supplies for hospitals in rural Sri Lanka. The second part is to be spent on care packages for underprivileged families. This includes some of our delivery partners as well.

Q: How do you plan to use the power of your platform to make a difference in Sri Lanka?

A: Our technology is global. We have the ability to really innovate and come up with new improved user experiences. This is really important to the Sri Lankan market. The second element is our local touch. We have a team of about a 100 people who really understand the local market. They interact with all our stakeholders to make sure we are building on what we do here. Our strong combination of ‘local and global’ is making a difference here in Sri Lanka.

Q: What are your future plans in the country?

A: I am really optimistic, we are here to grow a really compelling and strong experience for the Sri Lankan people. Innovating and investing in micro mobility is one area that we’re focused on.

We’ve seen strong growth in bicycle deliveries and have therefore made the decision to invest in electric bikes as well.

When looking at the global context, sustainability is an important priority for us and we will continue to invest and build the infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Grocery delivery is one of the other areas where we see a lot of opportunities - it’s a global priority for us.

We will continue to expand our offerings in the Sri Lankan market.