Ride-hailing service Uber’s intention to grab a bigger share of the Indian market is mirrored in the way it is expanding its workforce.
This year, Uber is looking to double its India, Uber's senior director Komal Mangtani told CNBC-TV18. The company currently has 500 plus engineers in Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
Mangtani heads Business Intelligence at Uber and was named by Forbes among America’s top 50 female technology moguls in 2018.
In an exclusive chat, the 43-year old senior executive shared Uber's business plans for 2019 and India's role going ahead. Here are some key excerpts from the interview:
Q: Uber has currently been in the news for gender diversity issues. Tell us about the importance of women in the corporate sector and how to increase inclusivity.
A: Growing up in India and then entering the workforce both in India and the US, one thing I can say is women bring very unique perspective in dealing with problems faced by any company. We leverage our own unique experience which in turn help a company increase its competitive ability and think beyond the existing solution space. It also helps promote further diversity as change comes from the top -- as we see more women in executive leadership roles, it helps more women enter, stay and not just survive but thrive in the workplace.
Q: What role does India play in Uber's growth strategy and where does it rank for the company amidst other global markets?
A: India is critical to us on various dimensions. Firstly, technical talent: unique background of entrepreneurs turned engineers, who can spearhead services at any market and offer products and solutions valuable to Uber & Uber Eats.
India is very similar to Latin America as a market, similar challenges and solutions. Hence, India also serves as a test market where we can try out specific solutions. India offers diverse importance to Uber.
Q: Today, issues like population explosion, air quality control have become severe. How are teams in India helping Uber address the world's mobility challenges.
A: We have platform teams that provide solutions on a generic level but we also have product teams that cater to unique challenges and understand local nuances in all our markets.
In Hyderabad, we are starting our Payments team. This team will focus on local payment experiences and will understand the financial fraud techniques that we need to implement at Uber, without compromising on user experience. They will leverage Machine Learning techniques, natural language processing to reduce Uber's time taken to respond to customer issues. Similarly we will be enhancing our Uber offerings in Auto, Moto and various modalities and when we look at the challenges that those modes offer, India is very well positioned to solve these challenges because they are very near to the problem space.
Q: Uber, in a recent statement, referred to India as its "world lab" for mobility, transport and innovation. Could you please elaborate that strategy for our readers.
A: We like to test out solutions with a small set of users upfront. India provides us that solution where we can collect different feedback and ironing out the solution before we roll it out globally. The open-loop culture of India is very similar to those of Latin America. Also we believe, we can use India's different perspectives, we see India providing all sets of user experiences to us: Latin America, Australia, NZ, Japan and Korea. We want to first test those solutions in India and then get feedback, before global implementation.
Q: Tell us about the Indian market from a talent perspective and what is Uber's hiring outlook for India in 2019.
A: My innovation time was rolled out in Uber Hyderabad: Friday afternoons in Uber here. Indian engineers are not only up-to-date with all technologies available across the globe but they also have deep expertise in English processing techniques, understanding convolutional neural nets and love to solve problems that impact lives of people here. That level of understanding of business problems, marrying it to the technology space is something very unique to India, so we would like to leverage that more.
To that extent, we are going to double down on India, doubling our workforce here in 2019. We are bringing interesting new charters to India: Uber Lite, Uber Eats, payments, fraud detection techniques and intelligence resolution teams are a few of them.
Q: What is the expansion pipeline in India looking like for this year? Any new products or services you are likely to offer?
A: When you look at our past trends, Uber is very fast at iterating on solutions that we want to offer and identifying customer requirements. There are a lot of closed loop conversations with customers on safety features and integration with the local ecosystem in India -- to look at how we can weave out products deeply into their ecosystem. This is going to be a huge focus in 2019.
Q: We are chatting with you at Uber's excellence centre in Hyderabad. What role does this city play for the company?
A: Hyderabad plays a very critical role in Uber's technology stack. All financial reporting comes from Hyderabad. The city has a deep technical expertise around data and lab engineering, and the environment here is energizing. We want to leverage the level of engineering excellence here -- their focus on accuracy of numbers reflects a lot of dedication that we want to launch across all our offerings to come. Hyderabad is unequivocally one of our best teams at Uber.
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