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Why Uber wants to be “the operating system for daily life”

At last week’s Web Summit, Uber’s Chief Product Officer Manik Gupta discussed what the diversification of options offered by the company meant for the f...

William Smith
|Nov 13|magazine8 min read

At last week’s Web Summit, Uber’s Chief Product Officer Manik Gupta discussed what the diversification of options offered by the company meant for the future.

“We started off by creating a black car service,” said Gupta. “And the magic of Uber was that you push a button and you get a ride. Over the years, we moved from that to launching products like UberX, which were more affordable, and then we launched Uber Pool, which is about car sharing, again at a different price point. In the last few years we have really explored multiple mobility options such as jump bikes and scooters. In 10 cities around the world, we have public transit integrated within the uber app.”

Gupta distilled the breadth of Uber’s operations into the following credo: “10 years in the future, we really want Uber to be the operating system for everyday life. What that means is being the one stop shop for daily transportation and local commerce needs.”

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When questioned about the similarity of this approach to Asian super apps, Gupta maintained that Uber’s approach was different. “I feel that the term ‘super app’ is overloaded. [...] Our vision is to provide the right information at the right time for every user. [...] We operate in 65 countries and 700 cities around the world, and consumer needs are different. We have to be mindful of that when we are building a global product.”

Gupta also mentioned the internal debate in the company around whether to accept cash, particularly in the developing world. “Today, 40% of our trips are in cash. [...] You have to be very mindful about bringing that level of localisation, even though it may seem very counterintuitive.”

Considering Uber’s recent results, which saw the company lose $1bn in a quarter, against the CEO’s promise of profitability by 2021, Gupta emphasised that “the next phase of the company is about how we use technology driven innovation to gain efficiency. How do we become the most efficient and profitable business [...] but also a platform?

“One of the things I’ve been very focused on is: how do we build long term user engagement on our platform?” Examples of Uber trying to capitalise on its existing userbase include a loyalty program signed up to by 20mn people, one fifth of the company’s users, as well as Uber credit cards.

(Image: Web Summit)