Head of Uber Asia: provide values for car owners and riders

Updated: 2014-11-05 11:42

By Wang Sining(chinadaily.com.cn)

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Head of Uber Asia: provide values for car owners and riders

Allen Penn, Head of Uber Asia. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn] 

Uber announced the availability of People's Uber, its nonprofit ridesharing pilot program in additional Chinese cities, including Hangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, on Oct 20. For riders and car owners, this means more efficient transportation options when they need it most: rush hours, peak holiday periods and festivals. Chinadaily.com.cn interviewed Allen Penn, Head of Uber Asia, at the end of October.

Reporter: Google Ventures has invested in Uber. What attracted the tech giant to invest in Uber?

Penn: Google Ventures led our Series C, a little over a year ago, last August.

The way we look at it as a business is that it goes back to value creation. There is a large mass of people who are trying to get around their city. So if you create value for them, it's big business, especially in parts of the world where there are many private car owners. Moreover, Uber is an experience. It is not just getting from A to B, there's an experience wrapped around it: it may be high-quality or reliability or sometimes just fun.

Reporter: Uber opened third-party applications in August where partners such as Starbucks and some hotels can integrate Uber into their own apps. Uber also launched an API Alliance program. IS there any move for this kind of program for the Chinese market?

Penn: We're really excited about the API Program. We think that's really a way for Uber to continue to allow our service to make a bigger influence on the cities that we operate in. Many of our initial partners were US focused, but we're very focused on expanding the API Program internationally. We have a few partners in Europe scheduled to come online soon, and we're in discussions with some Chinese ones as well. Hopefully, one of the first integrations that we can get done in all of Asia will be here in China. It underscores our commitment to China and our excitement about the market as well as what we see as a tight alliance between the way that people use Uber Services and in many of the existing applications across the Internet mobile space in China, where we think there can be tight alliance between our user bases and the reason that people use those services, having that intent to get around the city and Uber being a good partner there.

Reporter: Will the release of "People's Uber" have any impact on UberX's market?

Penn:Just to clarify that People's Uber is a nonprofit service for Uber and the Driver. It's unique to what we do in different parts of the world. The goal of the more economic options of Uber services is to increase efficiency to cities by getting people around more easily and having them share resources. The goal with People's Uber is that someone who is already driving somewhere can take someone along with them, and pay a rate similar to simply covering the cost of gas for the trip. So it's less about what sort of products we are competing with (both our own and others), and more about offering something that riders and drivers in the market. If there is value in the service, people will use it. Across the world, our goal is to provide value to riders and drivers.

Reporter: How does People's Uber, a nonfor-profit service, manage the operating costs? How do you balance grabbing market share and operational costs?

Penn: We already have set up a platform to get drivers into the Uber X program. We are training drivers onto our Black System and are having them use our technology. Because of this, People's Uber is not a lot of additional operational overhead for us to offer. So I think that Uber understands the economics of car ownership really well at a global level. Since we are setting up the marketplace, we have to understand where drivers and riders want to buy and sell, and what makes those work. The drivers drive hundreds and hundreds of different models of cars. Since Uber is a data driven analytical organization, we get information on that. It allowed us to set up the business and economics in a way that's attractive enough for people to want to join the Uber platform. If you lose money when you set up and share a ride, that doesn't give you incentive to do it. It has to be something that's makes it worth your while to detour across a couple streets and pick someone up. We have tried to find the spot where that makes sense to people.

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