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Uber, the on-demand ride service, trimmed its quarterly loss to $708 million on rising revenue; it also confirmed on Thursday the company’s head of finance is leaving. Gautam Gupta will depart Uber in July to become chief operating officer at a younger start-up in San Francisco, according to the company.
Uber said its revenue during the first three months of this year rose some 18 per cent to $3.4 billion, but the company logged a loss of $708 million without taking into account stock compensation for employees. It was helped by strong growth in markets such as India. The narrowing of losses in the first quarter puts Uber on a good trajectory towards profitability, the company said in an emailed statement. In the December quarter, Uber’s losses stood at $991 million, while revenue was at about $2.9 billion.
“Our business continues to see steady and sustained growth — in India and globally. In the first quarter, we saw double-digit growth in India,” Uber India and South Asia President Amit Jain said. The company was “very optimistic about the future ahead”, he said.
On Gupta’s departure, founder and Chief Executive Travis Kalanick said in a statement: “Over the last four years, (Gupta) has been indispensable in helping build Uber from an idea into the business it is today.... We couldn’t have done it without him, and I will miss his energy, focus and infectious enthusiasm.”
Uber has seen a shake-out in its executive ranks as it works through a series of scandals that included disclosures about a culture of sexism, cut-throat workplace tactics, covert use of law enforcement-evading software, and release of a dash-cam video showing Kalanick berating and cursing at one of Uber’s drivers.
India is the largest market for Uber outside of its home market, the US. It has a significant presence in India with an employee base of over 1,000 people. Uber also has two engineering centres in India (at Hyderabad and Bengaluru) with over 100 engineers. Uber has also used the Indian market as a test bed for several of its product and innovations like cash payments that have been extended to other countries.
In India, Uber competes with home-grown cab aggregator, Ola. Both the companies have been pumping in significant money to bring more riders and driver partners on board, offering them discounted rides and incentives, in a bid to wrest control of the lucrative Indian market.
Interestingly, SoftBank-backed Ola posted a consolidated loss of over Rs 2,311 crore — about Rs 6 crore a day — during FY16. Its financial performance for the January-March 2017 was not available.
“These results demonstrate that our business remains healthy and resilient as we focus on improving our culture, management and relationship with drivers,” an Uber spokesperson said.
Uber operates in 29 cities in the country as compared to Ola’s operations in 110 Indian cities.
Over the last few years, the explosion of smartphones in India — the world’s second largest telecom market in terms of subscriber base — has made it more convenient for consumers to book a cab on the go through apps and secure payment options.