Uber must “localise to be effective” and win customers in new markets, according to the taxi app’s general manager for the Middle East and Africa.
Speaking at Quartz’s ‘The Next Billion’ event in London, Jambu Palaniappan said appetite for its services in global markets has been a “big driver”, but the brand must ensure it creates a “compelling” offering for local consumers.
With Uber now available in around 300 cities in over 60 countries, Uber is also innovating its core product based on learnings from emerging markets, Palaniappan added.
“In order for the business to be successful, it has to be more than just foreign expats and business visitors. You’ve got to build a product that is compelling for the local population,” he said.
“The basic principle of our business is the same, and your experience would be remarkably similar in Cairo as in Warsaw – simplicity, quick access to a car. This basic premise governs us. The differentiation happens because our business is dependent on the physical infrastructure of the city, and the drivers. We’ve got to localise to be effective.”
Uber suffered setbacks as a result of attacks on passengers in India, a scandal which impacted the company in western markets as well. But Palaniappan believes the app’s global presence is a benefit rather than a hindrance.
“In our business, nothing is sacred. You have to innovate at a pace which is frenetic, and the innovation which takes place in Nairobi, given the lack of a developed address system, means we introduce an interesting place of interest, landmark-based system,” he said.
“Also with AliPay. It’s not necessarily one global payment solution which is going to solve your problems, but it has be looked at.”
And on the question of the word ‘Uber’ being used as a verb – as Publicis Groupe boss Maurice Levy did earlier this year – Palaniappan joked that the company wants to be “the Uber of Uber”, and reinvent itself.