One year in the job: Can Dara Khosrowshahi save Uber?

Uber's CEO is under pressure to get sales growing and redeem its reputation.

As Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi approaches a year as boss of the taxi firm next month, we look at what challenges he’s overcome so far and what ones remains.

Before Uber, which spans 65 countries and employs 16,000, Khosrowshahi was Expedia boss and successfully grew it into one of the world’s largest online travel companies and he has a background in engineering and finance. He enjoyed a good reputation with Expedia’s 22,000 employees and was reportedly paid $200 million by Uber to join as CEO, according to Business Insider.

Focus on diversity

He aims to create an inclusive work environment and plans to launch new leadership programs for groups and women who feel as if they are being underrepresented.

The second method of establishing an inclusive work environment is to engage leadership. Uber claim that its building a robust set of metrics that will rank diversity and inclusion alongside other business priorities.

Court battles

In the UK, Khosrowshahi’s main challenge has been to sort out Uber’s court battle with TFL after a disastrous 2017, following concerns of the safety of user. He seems to have done this, with the firm winning its London licence back last month. Ubers’ application for a new London licence was originally refused by Tfl who believed that the company was not “fit and proper” to be a private car hire operator.

Tfls new proposals mean Uber must consider implementing women only taxi journeys and clearer policies for reporting offences and greater data sharing. Dara Khosrowshahi said the Uber board was very divided in terms of control in the business and its direction when he joined in August last year, following feuds between investors Benchmark and Travis Kalanick.

‘We enacted governance reforms that included changing the voting strategy, getting rid of high vote shares etcetera so the board could be united,’ he explained.

TV adverts

A PR offensive has also been rolled out in recent months to combat Ubers image problem with a series of national billboard and TV ads which feature Khosrowshahi. Its long-running decision to call its riders entrepreneurs was criticised however. The ads also serve to help protect market share from rival Lyft, who has been in talks with London’s mayor to join London’s market.

Another task will be to appease Uber drivers who now face a 25 per cent commission on fares and may turn their heads to rivals who charge less like Didi Chuxing backed Taxify, who say they charge 15 per cent commision per ride and Citymapper, who have started running a shuttle service called SmartRide from Peckham to Sloane Square via the City for just £3. CityMapper may offer a more reliable source of income in the future for Uber riders.

Didi Chuxing is Ubers main rival with a valuation of £50 billion compared to Uber’s valuation of £48 billion, according to Softbank.

To do list

Khosrowshahi aims to firstly boost morale as the new CEO of Uber. As a result of the confusion and conflict between those in the company during Kalanick’s management tenure morale was hit.

His second is to unite the factions. The company became very divided following the heated conflict between one of Uber’s investors and Kalanick himself, so Khosrowshahi aims to reunite every individual within the business to revive its reputation.

Finally, Khosrowshahi needs to get Uber growing faster. After all of the chaos concerning the change in CEO’s of the company and the conflicts that took place, time was wasted and sales growth was lost. As the table below shows, Ubers sales growth has slowed to 11 per cent from the second quarter of 2017 to the third quarter of 2017 having previously notched impressive growth of 26 per cent and 60 per cent.

Ubers sales growth has slowed
Uber sales growth has slowed down

Despite Uber’s reputation knock as a result of the TFL license rejection in London and the ousting of CEO Travis Kalanick, Uber stays confidently in the lead in the UK. Yet more challenges remain ahead, including that small matter of an upcoming IPO. It’s fair to say Uber needs to change if it hopes to survive in a competitive environment with regulations set to have an impact on the business. Whether they can remain is to be seen.

This article was written by Vanessa Khan and has been edited.

Michael Somerville

Uriel Beer

Michael was senior reporter for from 2018 to 2019.

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