Uber honcho pledges 50,000 jobs for Europe
19 January 2015 -
Under-fire app’s CEO Travis Kalanick outlines ambitious growth plans, amid intensified media scrutiny of company’s reputation
Fast-rising taxi app Uber’s chief executive Travis Kalanick has announced plans to consolidate the firm’s European market by creating 50,000 new jobs – with the aim of taking 400,000 privately owned cars off the road this year. Kalanick made the announcement at the 2015 Digital Life Design (DLD) Conference in Munich, amid mounting media criticism of his £26bn company’s record on safety and reliability.
In December, an arrest was made in Delhi after a woman alleged that she had been raped by an Uber driver. Meanwhile, Kalanick himself has reportedly been warned he may face imprisonment of up to two years if he ever visits South Korea, following the indictment of an Uber subsidiary on charges of providing transport facilities without a licence.
Of the alleged rape, Kalanick said: “It’s terrible, we all have mothers, wives or daughters. We need to make sure that things like this never happen. We are part of an effort to make cities safer and will go above and beyond what governments require from us.”
But Kalanick – who established the company with Canadian entreprenuer Garrett Camp in 2009 – still maintains that the service is the “safest way around to get from A to B”. He cited background checks on drivers, GPS tracking systems, customer feedback and the ability to share trips with friends and family as a series of safeguards that have been implemented to protect and reassure customers. That said, Kalanick admitted Uber would have to do much more.
From a management perspective, the safety concerns presently associated with Uber constitute Kalanick’s biggest challenge. Uber has received investment of around $1.2bn to help with its international expansion and wants to replicate the 7,500 full-time jobs it has created in San Francisco and additional 13,750 in New York across Europe’s major cities. But without convincing the public – particularly women – that Uber’s services are trustworthy, such investment could be ineffective.
Last November, the lift-sharing company was embroiled in a row with journalists at a New York dinner party, after senior executive Emil Michael suggested that Uber was planning to hire a team of investigators to dig dirt on reporters who had produced the company’s bad press, with PandoDaily editor Sarah Lacy said to be a high-priority target.
Responding to Buzzfeed’s revelations of Michael’s alleged plans, the exec swiftly apologised, saying: “The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner – borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for – do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company’s views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”
Currently operating in more than 200 global destinations, Uber offers cheap rates on taxis via its smartphone platform, and is preparing UberPool, which would enable random passengers to share journeys when they are going in the same direction.
Kalanick stressed: “We want to make 2015 the year where we establish a new partnership with EU cities. With the success we’ve had, we can go to any city mayor and say we can promise you up to 10,000 jobs in two years.”
He added: “There are about 1 billion cars in the world today and I think that about 96% of them are under-utilised. We use about 15% of our space in cities just to park our cars, and we have to deal with problems like drink driving. There’s also a massive carbon footprint that we all have to deal with. Our goal is to drive down the cost of taking Uber below the cost of owning a car.”
Uber’s challenge to the traditional taxi business model, though, has been yet another source of controversy for the firm. Last year, more than 5,000 London cab drivers launched a protest in central London that blamed Uber for gaining an “unfair competitive advantage” by processing London jobs through its Dutch subsidiary – thereby allowing it to pay a lower rate of VAT on the commission it takes from fares.
Furthermore, black-cab drivers have argued that the technology Uber uses to determine the price of journeys is equivalent to a meter – which, according to Transport for London (TfL) regulations, only licensed cabbies are legally allowed to use. However, the protest seemed to miss its mark, as Uber declared an 850% increase in customer signups following the dispute.
For more thoughts on business ethics in management, download the recent CMI report The MoralDNA of Performance.
Image of Travis Kalanick courtesy of Debby Wong / Shutterstock.
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