Travis Kalanick, founder and chief executive officer (CEO) of US-based taxi aggregator service Uber, says he's ready to anything to protect his company from protectionist attitudes in India, including applying for a citizenship.
Here on a multi-city tour, he said so in a chat with NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant on Thursday, on ways to get over regulatory hurdles.
“If it is about whether I am personally Indian, I will apply to be a citizen of India if this is what gets us over the hump. At the end of the day, it is about the innovation that is being brought, about how we are serving. Are we bringing efficiency and positive outcomes for our riders? I think we are. At the end of the day, we respect competing with Ola
(its India-based rival), and I think we have competed well and fairly and would continue to do so.”
Recently, e-commerce marketplace Flipkart's co-founder, Sachin Bansal, and Ola
co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal spoke about capital dumping by foreign companies. They said entities such as Amazon and Uber, with their fat wallets, were doing deep discounting to take over the market. Bansal went on to say they wanted the foreign investments but not the companies.
Countering the allegation of capital dumping, Kalanick said Ola
was as foreign a company as Uber. "Our competitors have also raised enormous amounts of capital; we have operations globally and bring capital for our global operations. At the end of the day, both companies have taken so much investment that the vast majority of my company, as well as the vast majority of Ola, is foreign," he said.
He added the target of both in the coming months and years would be to break even. "When you get big, you have to break even or buckle. You will see from both companies in the coming months and years a plan to get to that. I certainly look forward to it."
Kant started the chat of almost an hour, with an anecdote about Kalanick, on how the latter did not have a valid visa the first time he came to India last year for the government's 'Startup India' event. Kant recalled being awoken about 2:30 a.m., and having to wake up the home secretary and Intelligence Bureau chief to get him in.
In his reply, Kalanick thanked Kant and explained how the visa dates got mixed. During the conversation, Kalanick joked about the driving skills of Indians and how his self-driving cars would take a long time to match that, to flying cars and competition.
On competition, Kalanick said it kept people honest. "It makes you better, it keeps you honest and pushes you to continue to innovate. We are a very innovative company. Most of what you see in the ride share space was something our company has created. We like competition," he said.
On pulling out of China, Kalanick said they had to, as they were losing $200 million a month.
After demonetisation, he said Uber
had seen a rapid move of customers from cash to e-payment. Earlier, it was getting paid 80 per cent in cash; this is now 50 per cent. He says the company plans to hire as many as a million women as drivers by 2020.