Uber has some great technology, world class engineers, and a truly disruptive business idea. But these are not the reasons why it’s the world’s most valued startup. What makes Uber so successful is its sheer brazen audacity.
A few weeks ago, Uber and Ola had simultaneously launched their bike taxi services in Bangalore. Bangalore’s harried commuters’ joy was cut short though – two days after the launch, the Bangalore Transport Department had declared the service illegal, and had begun seizing bikes.
While Ola had meekly complied with the Bangalore Government’s directive and taken the Bike option off its app, Uber decided to do something completely different – it has rebranded UberMOTO as a bikepooling service.
Uber has announced that it will not charge its riders any commission for rides on UberMOTO. By operating at a no-profit service, UberMOTO bikes cease to become taxis, and hence can’t be banned by the state government.
“In the spirit of collaborating with the government, we have had extensive discussions with the relevant authorities over the past few days. Uber will not charge any service fee for the period of this pilot”, the company said in a statement. For good measure, Uber also played up the service as a public utility. “UberMoto essentially encourages ‘bikepooling’ and will help in decongesting city roads”, it said.
The Karnataka government’s chief grouse with the bike taxis had been that under state laws, bikes can’t be used as taxis without proper permits. The government had also expressed concern about whether insurance would cover rides on these bikes.
But with its masterstroke, Uber has cleverly sidestepped all these discussions. It might not earn the commission from its bike rides, but its bikes will still zip across Bangalore and garner marketshare, while Ola’s bikes will sit in garages waiting for governmental approval.
“Always be Jugaading”, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had declared during his visit to India recently. And this is jugaad of the first order.