David Richter, global head of business and corporate development at cab aggregator major Uber, looks like a man on a mission. One of the 14 people in charge of the company ever since chief executive Travis Kalanick stepped down, Richter is trying to change the culture at the firm. In an interview, he tells Karan Choudhury how bringing in more women employees would change things. Edited excerpts:
What sort of policy changes do you hope for?
I think the initiative for the commercial versus private car distinction is the key; we have already seen some traction. The more that becomes uniform, the better for driver partners, riders and Indian cities in general.
In terms of leadership, what has changed in the company?
In terms of leadership change, we are committed to a cultural change and that has already started. But it is a process, so as much as I and others believe it to be the case, saying it is one thing, but walking the talk and continuing to do so is crucial. The new CEO (chief executive officer), she or he would be the force that would continue to do the cultural change.
So who is heading Uber in the interim period?
Right now we have a 14-member Executive Leadership Team (ELT) and the company continues to do well in this transition period. The latest stats are compelling. According to Q2 results, we saw roughly $8.7 billion for the quarter, up 17 per cent compared to Q1's $7.5 billion, and 102 per cent year-on-year. We have a fair amount of cash in the bank, around $6 billion
How far has the search for the new CEO gone? Are there any murmurs of bringing Kalanick back?
We will not rush the bringing of the new CEO because things are continuing to go quite well for Uber. We are committed to the cultural change, which is also a necessity, but we will bring the right CEO at the right time. We are committed to bringing a new CEO.
I admire what we achieved under past leadership and we would not be here in many ways without that. But we are looking forward to bringing in a CEO who would take this to the next level.
Are you recruiting more women now?
We have a concerted effort to do so. That was true in the past but more so now; I certainly believe it as well as the fellow members of the ELT have it as a core principle. We are working on it, are cognisant about it and are working on it proactively. We are putting in more women at key positions to change the narrative. Of the 14 members of the ELT, five are women; it will take time but we are investing in that, as long as we keep up the right perspective that it is a continuous reinforcement of good behaviour and the non-tolerance of the bad behaviour, things would change. We are committed to make that change a reality.
What exactly do you mean by cultural changes in the company?
At a very basic level, there has to be greater respect for an individual, including our employees, fellow colleagues, drivers and riders. In the past, there might have been insufficient attention paid to that; now there is a conscious effort to do more. In the beginning, conscious effort needs to be made and then comes coercive action and then it becomes part of culture and finally it happens at a subconscious level.
There are reports that SoftBank Group might invest in Uber. Are the talks happening?
I cannot comment on perhaps ongoing corporate developments or even confirm or deny if they exist at this time.
So what changes would you attribute to ELT?
I will give you a tactical as well as strategic answer. Tactically, things such as having greater ratio of human resources professionals within the company provides a greater basis for training of young as well as senior managers. At a strategic level, it is a culture of respect for our colleagues, drivers and riders. Such a core cultural value was perhaps earlier taken for granted.