Everyone told him Dara, his first name. Most are related to his family name, Khosrowshahi, which is difficult to pronounce. But also with his friendly character and descomplicado, always tennis, never with a tie and generally, a big smile. He was born in Iran and for more than a year and a half he is the CEO and face of Uber, an American company that has spearheaded the transportation service revolution in the past decade, but today his eyes have been on dozens of products ranging from electric bicycles and auto cars to "aerotaxis" , which can fly in the next two or three years.
Thanks to an invitation from Uber, EL TIEMPO visited him at his office in San Francisco, California, where his employees praised him for moving the company from one of his worst moments, when they were accused of discriminatory, sexist and focused practices. get the highest profit margin without paying too much attention to the method.
At present, he said, this company emerged as an inclusive company, is part of the solution to the mobility problem that afflicts most cities. And, above all, leaving limbo where it is found in most Latin American countries, like Colombia, where it hasn't been regulated.
In conversation, the first with Colombian medium, he asks Iván Duque's governmentrse for dialogue and announced for the first time the amount of tax paid to the State this year.
It is clear that they are interested in Latin America. What attracts so much attention?
Not only are we interested but we believe that it is a vital area for us. We invest from the start in countries like Argentina, Brazil and Colombia because we believe that there is great economic and human potential. This is the fastest growing region and our main market in terms of the number of services offered. What we see is that we are a service that people like, a source of employment for thousands of drivers, which allows people to mobilize more efficiently and that results in economic and social development.
Of course But there is also the problem of competition, with strong rivals like Didi from China. They already exist in Mexico and Brazil. And also local companies. What makes you think that your product is better and will win?
The mobility business is very large and generates around US $ 6 million million (6 trillion) dollars per year. But, when someone observes the way people move in the city, that is through cars, trains, buses, they realize that it is a sector that has not been transformed with technology at another level or that. it is in the main stages of that transformation. That is, there are good opportunities. We are fortunate to be among the first to enter this region, but we welcome competition because we believe that this forces us to be better, to offer better services. And most likely, the competition will continue for at least a decade. While we continue to innovate, as long as we continue to offer good and reliable services, we will continue to grow.
We are fortunate to be among the first to enter this region, but we welcome competition because we believe that this forces us to be better, to offer better services
They have been in Colombia for more than 5 years and in other countries in the region and their legal situation is still in a state of limbo. What were the main obstacles they found and what did they propose to get out of this swamp?
What we ask is that the level of the playing field is set in terms of regulations for all transportation and mobility providers. Taxis have arranged it, but we believe that this regulation must be renewed. Look, Uber is a concept that will be an important part of how people move in any city in the world. We are ready to speak with the Minister of Transportation, to develop regulations that have common sense and are fair to all.
In that sense, what signal did you receive from President Duque?
I think he must be very busy. But what we believe is that we are strong actors in this country. There are already 88,000 monthly drivers who use the platform, and by the middle of this year we have paid around 44,000 million pesos in taxes as a result of our operations (facts that have not been disclosed until now). We can become the economic engine for Colombia as a generator of partial and full-time employment and through payment of taxes. The message we send is very clear: we are ready to be organized in a way that is fair to everyone.
Uber's message to the traditional taxi system seems to be: adapting or disappearing.
All models must adapt, and if they succeed, they will succeed. Everyone needs to move, and taxis and Uber have a role. In the long run, what we want is not only working with taxis but also with buses and mass transit systems and sharing all information about how people move in cities and thus can be constructive actors in how cities are designed, bus stops, stations, etc. .
Uber and other successes have been linked to the level of internet access, smart phones, and low-cost data packages. In Latin America we are still lagging behind. How many stop this type of service expansion?
Sometimes we have sinned by seeing things from a very Western perspective, where broadband infrastructure is abundant and moving, stronger. But we are also self-critical and when we realize that we are putting together a team in India that is developing applications designed for lower capacity cellphones. This is called Uber Light and was launched in September in Colombia. Download requires less space and requires less broadband because it eliminates things like maps that always appear at the beginning and take a long time to load. This application is very fast and efficient. That is, we make special changes to a world where broadband is not always the same everywhere.
This is called Uber Light and was launched in September in Colombia. Your download requires less space and requires less broadband
Security issues in Latin America are complex and robberies and violations in this type of transportation often occur. How do they adapt?
Safety is our most important initiative. And, as you say, all markets have different challenges. In the United States and other countries, credit cards and banking information are used to establish one's identity and a good part of their history. However, in Latin America, cash is widely used as a form of payment and therefore this form of verification is not possible. But we use other types of filters. We demand, for example, connections with Facebook and other forms of user identification. That costs us in volume because some don't want to provide that information. We have concluded that priority is a platform as safe as possible. We also use technology to improve security. We can know, for example, which area in the city is less secure and at what time by & # 39; info & # 39; collected from users and drivers, and the design route that avoids it.
What do you say to those who accuse Uber of contributing to pollution and vehicle congestion?
Congestion and pollution are problems that every city must face because more and more people are moving towards the city center. Today, 50 percent of the population is there, but the United Nations says it will soon be two thirds. What attacks are private cars, which is one of the causes of congestion, and for that reason our technology aims to make cars more efficient and, at the same time, less relevant. Our first step is to get a private car that is used to mobilize more people and not just the owner. And that has reduced the number of cars on the streets and the space they occupy in parking lots. The second is looking for people to share careers with others. The service, called Uber Pool, gets more cars from the streets. The third component where we invest a lot and we hope to immediately bring it to your area (2019) is personal electric vehicles such as bicycles and skateboards to mobilize people on smaller trips. The fourth axis of our vision is that Uber is a mobility platform for all. We want public transportation services -meters, buses and taxis-are in Uber to offer the most efficient routes.
Do you see a future where the concept of a private car disappears?
It doesn't make sense for someone to have a car for their own use. On average, this car is only used 5 percent of the time. They are very underutilized. We believe that the combination of all these services, such as swimming pools, which are added to electric cars and autonomous cars, will make the streets safer, quieter and cities cleaner and less attractive. And they will make personal cars more unnecessary.
What is Uber's bet now because he has bought Jump bicycle service and entered the skateboard market?
The electrification of these individual vehicles is a revolution in itself. Have you used it? He asked. When you enter one of them, you will realize that you feel like Superman. They don't need any effort. In San Francisco, the average trip in a car is around 4 kilometers. But at least 30 or 40 percent of them are less than that distance. Imagine a world where we can replace 30 or 40 percent short trips with bicycle trips, which are easy to handle and even get to the final destination faster.
He believes that Elevate, aerotaxis, is the future. Why?
We have the technology to develop a vehicle for climbing and vertical decline that will be silent (electricity) and safe and we will market it starting in 2023. Just as cities grow in the third dimension, transportation also has to do it.
SERGIO GÓMEZ MASERI
Special Envoy EL TIEMPO