Uber Says No Change in Growth, Investment Plans for India Amid Global Turmoil

Uber Says No Change in Growth, Investment Plans for India Amid Global Turmoil


  • Uber is going ahead with its India operations without hurdles
  • Recent times have been tumultous for Uber as its CEO stepped down
  • A number of lawsuits against Uber including Waymo are also going on

Cab aggregator Uber on Thursday said there is no change in its growth and investment plans in India, even as it continues to battle against allegations of mismanagement and harassment at its headquarters in the US.

The ride-hailing firm further said it is “thinking hard” about how the company can foster a culture of inclusion and diversity in India and is bolstering existing practices.

India is the largest market for Uber, outside of its home-ground. There were concerns that the global developments could have a damaging effect on the company’s operations in India.

“There is no change in our plan for growth and investment. Our business is stronger than ever – we have continued to grow exponentially every week since we started in journey in India almost 4 years back,” Uber President India and South Asia Amit Jain told PTI.

He added that the management, both global and in the country, is committed to the operations in India.

The comments assume significance as Uber, the world’s most valued startup, has come under fire after a former employee wrote a blog post alleging sexual harassment and sexism at the firm.

Troubles mounted further after reports emerged that a top Uber executive had allegedly obtained medical records of a 26-year-old woman raped by an Uber driver in India in 2014.

Responding to an email, Jain said Uber’s commitment to India is “absolute”.

The company has also seen a slew of top-level exits, including the forced resignation of its co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick.

“At times like this, communication is important, and I have made myself available to all members of staff. The team understands that the mission remains the same and that in that respect, nothing has changed,” Jain said.

Besides, the company has also connected to its driver partner ecosystem to reiterate its commitment to the Indian market.

Jain said Uber is “a few days away from touching a milestone of 500 millionth trip in India”.

Uber, which competes with SoftBank-backed Ola, has operations in 29 cities in India. India accounted for about 12 percent of all Uber trips globally, as of last year.

The company has two engineering centres in India – Bengaluru and Hyderabad with nearly 100 people. The teams work on areas like safety, payments, driver growth, maps, vehicle telematics and rider experience, among others.

Jain said the company is further strengthening existing practices and bringing in newer ones as well.

“We are thinking hard about the things that need to change for Uber to not just be a successful company but also a company that is loved and respected. Change starts with action,” he said.

Globally, Uber’s board has adopted recommendations following an investigation led by the law firm of former US attorney general Eric Holder, who was retained to look into Uber’s culture and practices.

The recommendations exhorted Uber to exercise more control over HR and the overall culture at the workplace. Uber has now rolled out a plan for 180 days, under which it plans to make “meaningful changes” for enhancing the experience of its driver partners.


Mutual Investment is Required in “It’s Their Job, But It’s Your Career”

Robert Segall, author of the new book It’s Their Job But It’s Your Career: The Underground Guide to Career Success, is on a mission.

A veteran human resources executive and founder of human resources firm Career Underground, Segall sent me a review copy and explained his inspiration for the career guide for professionals. He noted that the contract between employee and employer is broken. That viewpoint on the implicit employment contract resounds throughout Segall’s prescription for fixing today’s career ailments. Your employer has a responsibility to you, but so do you for achieving your career.

Being good at your job does not mean you are good at your career. In fact, early on in the book, Segall lists ten reasons why we don’t talk about career, as well as an example of how our collective devaluation of career direction can lead to organizational direction.

He offers an account of human resources using lower salaries because people are seen as a cost. He cautions:

“When we become more value to ourselves, we become more valuable to our employers as well. It’s a mistake to think that we are simply more expensive. Instead, we must remember that our value comes from our effect on the workplace and not just the work product….We have failed to recognize this perspective of career as a mutual investment…..”

I tried to imagine how this book best serves its intended audience. The solutions describe enterprise-level environments in general, but they can fit smaller firms more susceptible to keeping employees motivated when advancement opportunities vary wildly. The ideas can be a starting point to how to develop employees to imagine their careers, even if it may mean moving forward from a firm.

That kind of move in the right context can broaden a network for a smaller firm; a win-win aspect. That perspective permeates the ideas Segall advocates. The end result is a bright tone in between the talks about controlling your career, such as this passage:

“We’re in a world filled with people who have no interest in conflict with one another and would rather agree on nearly everything of substance and matter. We seek to be respected, to be able to come together (or apart) as we please. We want our future world to live as brightly as the golden ages of the past…. This globally integrated world creates opportunities for each of us to connect and do business, if only we have the creativity and initiative to meet the opportunity.”

That win-win perspective enhances any encouragement in taking charge of your networking and skill development:

“…if people around us are generally good and want to help us if they can, then it is our responsibility to engage with them as part of our career development.”

The cost of lost engagement can be high. Segall notes what can result from a dysfunctional process in an organization, such as the cost of a poor recruitment program:

“The dysfunctional employer will have to explain to its remaining workforce why it can’t keep its best talent in its ranks, or if it buries its head in the sand and ignores the absence of its key personnel, the staff will be well aware of the corporate dysfunction and the exit trend will continue.”

I can imagine someone giving this book to an employee to show some ideas to what to expect from career management in general. Or it can be given as an inspiration on what a good workplace should promise to its workforce.

Budding entrepreneurs may also find inspiration in the text. As a matter of fact, I recall a conversation with an interested professional that he felt uncomfortable charging someone for his services – comments from Segall can positively inspire entrepreneurs to get past such psychological hang ups:

“It doesn’t matter what you do for a living. You have skills to offer, and they are part of a solution. The solution you choose to work on shows where your passions lie.”

Entrepreneurs can combine this thought with those from Adrienne Graham’s excellent No You Can’t Pick My Brain.

Regardless of the reason, you should read this book to learn why win-win thinking can enhance and bring value to your teams.


Will Angel Investment Slowdown Hamper Recovery?

Just as most sources of small business financing have slowed down in the recession, angel financing has gone through some changes, too.

Like all investors, angels became more cautious about their investments. But what long-term effect will this slowdown have? A recent study holds some useful news for small businesses that are seeking this type of financing.

Conducted by the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, The Angel Investor Market In Q1q2 2010: Where Have All The Seed Investors Gone?,surveyed angel investment during the first half of 2010. First, the good news: Angels are investing in more businesses. The number of businesses that obtained angel capital in 2010 grew three percent compared to 2009 numbers, reaching 25,200.

Recovery at Risk Due to Angel Investment Slowdown?

Now, the bad news: Although angels are investing in more companies, they’re investing less money overall. Total angel investments in the first half of 2010 dropped by 6.5 percent (to $8.5 billion) compared to the same period in 2009. At the same time, fewer angels are investing. The percentage of angels that are “latent” (meaning they haven’t made an investment) went from 36 percent in 2008 and 54 percent in 2009 to 65 percent in 2010.

Want more on angel investing? Check these out:

  • Do Fools Rush in Where Angels Fear to Tread?
  • It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s a Super Angel!
  • The Characteristics Angel Investors Expect

More bad news: Today’s angels are focusing on later-stage companies. A mere 26 percent of angel investments in the first six months of 2010 went to startup stage investments—continuing a decline from 35 percent in 2009 and 45 percent in 2008. And that has implications for more than just startups.

“Historically angels have been the major source of seed and startup capital for entrepreneurs and this declining interest in seed and start-up capital represents a significant change in the angel market,” notes study author Jeffrey Sohl. “Without a reversal of this trend in the near future, the dearth of seed and start-up capital may approach a critical stage, deepening the capital gap and impeding both new venture formation and job creation.”

In fact, even a company with a track record of success might have difficulty getting angel capital if it’s in a risky industry. Angels are focusing on industries that have proven demand even during tough times. Specifically, here’s where they’re putting their money:

  • Healthcare/medical devices and equipment: 24 percent
  • Biotech: 20 percent
  • Software: 12 percent
  • Industrial/energy: 11 percent
  • Retail: 9 percent
  • Media: 5 percent

Recovery could be at risk if angels’ confidence doesn’t improve. Here’s hoping that the rest of 2010 brings more positive news.

Editor’s Note: This article was previously published at OPENForum.com under the title: “Is an Angel Investment Slowdown Putting the Recovery at Risk?” It is republished here with permission.


Rohan Gilkes of Wet Shave Club: Growing a $4K Investment into $350K Business

Wet Shave Club0Small Business Trends: Maybe you can give us a little bit of your personal background.

Rohan Gilkes: I’ve been an accountant before I started building businesses online. I felt the urge to control my own life more and find a way to work for myself. I started hanging around blogs so I could learn about Internet marketing and that’s kind of how I got into trying to build businesses online.

Small Business Trends: How did you get started with Wet Shave Club?

Rohan Gilkes: Wet Shave Club was started by someone else about six months before we heard about the business. I was on the Reddit hang around, and saw a thread where this guy wanted to sell it. He had been doing it for some time, and he had gotten it up to about $300.00 per month, and he wanted to sell it because it really was not kind of paying off based on the effort he was putting into it.

So I ended up purchasing Wet Shave Club for $4,000.

Small Business Trends: So you opened a little less than a year ago. You spent $4,000 to acquire the domain and some of the customers — the few customers that he had basically. Where are you today with it?

Rohan Gilkes: We’re going to end this month, which really would be the end of our first year, at around $350,000 in revenue and a little bit over 1,500 customers.

Small Business Trends: That’s really cool. What were some of the important things you had to do at the very beginning to get potential customers on board?

Rohan Gilkes: The first thing we did was take a look at how the website was branded, and redesigned it to make it friendlier and speak more clearly to the customer. And also we redesigned the box as well, expanded the product line just a bit and raised prices. We raised prices by almost three times.

Small Business Trends: Wow … how long did it take for the subscription numbers to start moving up and up and up?

Rohan Gilkes: Another two months or so, because traffic was still low. But we had increased our conversion rates almost by double, so we were in a good position where all we had to do was figure out how to drive as much traffic as possible to the website.

Small Business Trends: What were your conversion rates at the beginning?

Rohan Gilkes: We started very close to 1.5 percent conversions and we ended up just a little bit over three percent conversions. So for every 100 people that come to the website, we can expect three of them to sign up now for our service, which is kind of where you want to be for a regular eCommerce store. And it’s very good for a subscription box because the subscription box offer requires that customer to sign up on a recurring basis.

Small Business Trends: So let’s talk a little bit about one or two of the things that you did to get the traffic up.

Rohan Gilkes: Our main focus was to find the people in the wet shaving community with the biggest followings and get a box of our new branded products in their hand. So if you were some person that led a forum or had a couple thousand Instagram followers or a couple thousand YouTube subscribers and talked about wet shaving we just sent you a box. And so that box may cost us like $10.00, but then based on all the people that would see it and people that trust this person’s recommendations, we were then able to get a boost in subscribers right away.

We then turned to regular social media folks — people that we could start a conversation with and get our brand out there. We ran contests where in order to enter the contest, you would have to tweet about us or you would have to send a message on Instagram or email. So basically we were able to leverage people that were interested in wet shaving and have them share our experience with their friends and their communities.

Small Business Trends: What role did your blog play in getting that traffic up?

Rohan Gilkes: We would post manufacturers’ videos of people that were in the box. We would post reviews of our box as well, and we would post on social media. But people would have to come back to our blog to watch it.

And while there on our blog, a pop up would offer them a five percent discount or something in exchange for their emails. And so we gathered, over time, thousands of emails of people that even if they did not sign up right away, we could re-market to them over and over again.

Small Business Trends: Where are you at today with your traffic?

Rohan Gilkes: We’re probably at about 1,000 visitors per day now, which is great for a small, niche site like ours. And we were able to convert people at a pretty high clip, and people stay on for a long time. And because we have recurring revenue, we can also have a higher customer acquisition cost. So like for a one-time sale on a store, you can’t afford to lose money on the sale. But for us, we could almost lose money on the first box, and make that back in month two and month three and month four and month five and so on.

That allowed us to go into Facebook advertising and go into AdWords and re-targeting and actually spend some money to acquire customers after we did all of this other free stuff.

Small Business Trends: Talk a little bit about what you do to keep them subscribed, and the role of customer service in keeping your customers happy.

Rohan Gilkes: Especially with subscription box services, you look at the value of the business based on how long you can keep that customer and how long you can keep that customer times how much money you can make per period.

We pay special attention to creating a community around our products. So instead of just getting a box every month, we want to create a community. What we did, first in the customer services side, we have an online chat. If you have any problems, you come to the website to chat instantly. We decided against telephones because it introduces a few more difficulties. So we went with online chat and we’re able to solve problems the customers have on the website.

On the community side, we started a Facebook private group for our customers called The Wet Shave Lounge. It’s almost like a VIP focus group where we will post new products before they’re released. We’ll get feedback on past boxes, see the scents that people like and don’t like, and really get to know our members as well as we can which allows us to build deeper relationships and have folks stay with us much longer.