Is Uber headed for a tailspin?


By YS Chan

I refer to the report “Uber CEO says he must ‘grow up’ after argument with driver” (Reuters, March 1).

Bloomberg had published a video of Travis Kalanick, chief executive of Uber Technologies Inc, arguing with a driver who had complained about rates.

Those who have invested in Uber should be concerned as the company’s image has been battered by accusations of sexism, cut-throat management and a toxic work environment.

It is no surprise considering the online transport network company had put ethics aside from the very beginning.

In its haste to expand rapidly, it did not bother to seek the approval of local authorities and governments around the world and instead offered unlicensed private cars for use as taxi services.

It continued to dish out the same spin instead of replying to pertinent questions.

In Malaysia, it has succeeded in making it known that the worst taxi drivers are in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysians swallowed it hook, line and sinker; welcoming Uber like the messiah without realising that it was competing with local taxi apps.

Uber went all out to capture market share, disrupting the lives of millions of cabbies around the world and causing much misery to their families.

A recent report revealed that on average, passengers paid only 42% of the fare and the rest is subsidised by Uber. Uber has never been profitable. Last year, it lost US$3 billion (RM13.34 billion).

Last September, The Economist reported that Uber was worth close to US$70 billion. But a month earlier, a valuation expert said Uber was worth only US$28 billion.

Uber is besieged with problems, including being accused by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, of using stolen technology for self-driving vehicles.

Ethics and profits are needed for the long-term sustainability of any business but these are grossly lacking in Uber.

It has remained afloat as speculative investors are pumping in capital in the hope of handsome returns from what is expected to be a hugely successful initial public offering.

Those who have invested in Uber include our country’s second-largest pension fund, KWAP, with RM124 million.

YS Chan is an FMT reader

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