An Uber exec explains why all of its latest safety features get priority in India

Sachin Kansal, Global Senior Director, Safety Product, Uber
  • In an interview with Business Insider, Sachin Kansal, Senior Director of Global Safety Products, Uber a lot of the company’s global products are built with an India-first approach.
  • Uber has launched three new safety features – Audio recording, Ridecheck and PIN verification.
  • Recently, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was in India to launch the public transport feature.
For global ride-hailing giant Uber, India is a very, very important market. And this is seen in the hurry with which it is bringing its global products to India.

After making Delhi, the first Asian city to get its public transport feature, Uber has launched three new safety features – Audio recording, Ridecheck and PIN verification for the India market.

In fact, a lot of Uber’s global products are built with an India-first approach, if not designed in India itself. “India has actually been at the leading edge of a lot of our products. The 24/7 safety helpline was first implemented in India. The Ridecheck feature that we are announcing was actually pioneered by our teams in India – idea for the feature came from the India team. Uberlite was also a product designed in India. So the country is a source of ideas and inputs for a lot of our innovative features,” Sachin Kansal, Senior Director of Global Safety Products, Uber told Business Insider.

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Uber had also launched an inter-city travel feature, which is an India only product.

Here’s why Uber is taking the ‘India First’ route

According to a report, Uber’s India bookings reached an annualized rate of $1.4 billion in the third quarter⁠— accounting for 11% of the company’s global bookings. According to reports, Uber’s India business also saw a jump in profits by 63% to ₹43.2 crore as of March 2019.

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Uber operates in over 60 countries, and when more than one in every ten bookings come from a single country ⁠— which is also raking in the moolah ⁠— it becomes an important destination for the brand.

Size and profit matter but that’s not everything

India is also a complex market, a fact that Uber has learnt the hard way. Implementing all of these safety features in India is important for Uber which has been caught in the wrong foot multiple times in India. In 2014, an Uber driver was accused of rape of a female rider in India’s national capital Delhi, which caused a huge uproar in the country and was also a PR disaster for the company.

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These are some of the new safety features added in Uber and most of them have been piloted in India.

Ridecheck

Uber can detect long stops or if a ride has been stopped far away from the destination and it will proactively reach out to the rider to ensure safety.

Kansal told Business Insider that a lot of Uber’s India users asked for this feature. “India is a very very important market. For the safety team, India is always a priority. I understand the Indian market and the Indian consumer,” said Kansal.
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Audio Recording

Uber will record audio while you are on the trip. It is currently being piloted in Brazil and Mexico and will soon come to India, as the Uber team is currently working with policy teams to ensure it adheres to the laws of the land.

“Privacy is a very important part of how we design this feature. We feel very good about taking care of regulations as well as user expectations. The recording will be on the rider or driver’s phone but they cannot listen to the recording themselves, cannot transfer, the only thing they can do is delete it or upload it to Uber as part of a safety issue. Uber authorized agents can listen to the recording in case a complaint comes in,” said Kansal.
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PIN verification

The third feature it launched is the PIN verification feature, where you get a four digit pin to ensure you are getting into the right car. Interestingly, Kansal informs us that Uber is currently testing technology where you can use wireless waves such as ultrasound waves for the two phones to talk to each other.

While the PIN verification feature has just been rolled out in the US for Uber, a similar feature existed in India long back with Uber’s rival Ola. So, is competition in mind when they are developing new products?

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“We don’t think of what competition is doing, we think of what users want. Our prioritisation is based on user feedback and that’s how products are rolled out,” said Kansal.

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Ola’s latest AI feature will ensure the company tracks your ride for any emergency
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