Uber Files: In ten points how ride-sharing platform lobbied with Indian policy makers to reach its destination
'The Uber Files' bring to the forefront how Uber grew its business en masse in different countries by "harnessing technology, working around laws, and using aggressive lobbying tactics."
1,24,000 records of data from a four-year period between 2013-2017 were obtained by The Guardian, and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that led to a breaking investigation about Uber.
'The Uber Files', as the investigation is being called, bring to the forefront how Uber grew its business en masse in different countries by "harnessing technology, working around laws, and using aggressive lobbying tactics to curry favour with governments", the Indian Express wrote.
Travis Kalanick started Uber, a ride-sharing company, in San Francisco in 2010, but was thrown out by the investors in 2017 after a series of sexual harassment scandals came to light.
In December 2014, when an Uber driver allegedly raped a woman in Delhi, though the company “officially expressed shock and empathy”, it actually put the blame on the Indian government for not conducting thorough background checks.
Indian Express reported, "Uber prepared a list of “stakeholders” from among the bureaucracy and political class to influence policy, and sign around a dozen MoUs in different states."
In India, Uber used its lobbying techniques to circumvent around tax and regulation issues that "arose frequently", and followed this same model in other countries as well.
Uber was launched in India in 2013. According to November 2021 data, Uber is available in 100 cities in India, has served nearly 9.5 crore riders and has nearly 6 lakh drive-partners, and hopes to take the number to 20 lakh drive-partners.
Uber BV, a Netherland-based company was actually set up by Uber in 2012 to "receive payments from customers in India". Except for Uber India Development Private Limited, all of Uber’s India firms are subsidiaries of Netherlands-based companies. "Uber leads the cab aggregator business in India, and invested Rs 1,767 crore in it in November 2019", reported Indian Express.
Bloomberg had reported recently that Uber was planning to sell its India operation, but CEO Dara Khosrowshahi had refuted the rumours.
However, in May, the CEO had written to his employees that there will be cost-cutting in the company. He wrote, “ We have to make sure our unit economics work before we go big.” A PIL is pending before the Indian Supreme Court that the drive-partners be classified as “workers” at Uber.
Motor Vehicle Aggregators Guidelines notified by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways in November 2020 laid out a formula for surge pricing, but except for Karnataka, no other state has laid down policies that can be followed by Uber. There is no “fare structure for aggregators”. This year, Maharashtra started working on the policy after the High Court ordered it to, but the Supreme Court has now ordered a stay after Uber challenged the Ministry’’s 2020 guidelines.
Uber India has reinvented itself multiple times, through different companies, different names and different subsidiaries.
The documents reveal that in other countries as well, Uber successfully influenced policymakers. In France, for example, the documents allege that Uber took French President Emannuel Macron's help to consolidate its position in France.
In a statement, however, Uber has said hat it is "now a different company".The statement says that the company "have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values."