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Uber India head: ‘Path to electrification via CNG; educating drivers on taking informed call on cancellations’

In a podcast conversation with Nandagopal Rajan, Prabhjeet Singh, President, Uber India, explains why India has the opportunity to build a very large CNG-based infrastructure and why it is a cleaner version of fuel.

Written by Nandagopal Rajan | New Delhi |
Updated: March 15, 2022 7:02:42 pm
Uber India, Uber CNGIn this week's of 'Our Own Devices' podcast, Uber India's President explains why the path to the electrification of its fleet in India will go through CNG.

Uber strongly believes the path to the electrification of its fleet in India will go through CNG. “India has the opportunity to build a very large CNG-based infrastructure. This is a cleaner version of the fuel, there are gas filling stations and the vehicles are being produced at scale,” Prabhjeet Singh, President, Uber India, and South Asia, reasoned with indianexpress.com.

Singh said Uber is globally committed to sustainability and recognises that as the leading ride-hailing platform they “have to be the catalyst for sustainability solutions”. He liked Uber’s three core beliefs in this space. One that “sustainability is a team sport”, which means that everybody in the ecosystem needs to come together — “OEMs have to start making cars available at price points, subsidies, which the governments are beginning to talk about, have to become real, processes have to become easy, infrastructure for deploying charging points have to come together and then platforms like Uber and others have to enable demand generation which will then ensure earnings for a buyer to buy an EV”. He added that for this ecosystem to catalyse, they “also believe the approach will require a combination of carrot and stick”.

Uber India President, Uber India Uber India President Prabhjeet Singh. (Image via Uber)

The second core belief is that sustainability will go through certain phases. “So you will continue to see a steady increase in electric participation on the platform, but there will still be CNG over the next three to four years. We see that happening in a gradual manner.” The third one is ensuring that as a technology platform, Uber brings some of the world’s best to India soon.

“Typically, on new-age technologies, India has had the track record of leapfrogging and I think we should do that for electrification. For example, we are very committed to bringing in services which will create electric-only products so that consumers who are willing to pay that extra premium and kind of give that extra support for the sustainability agenda are able to choose,” he said, adding that Uber will ensure that it is able to payback to consumers the kind of carbon footprint they’re reducing over a period of time.

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Speaking to indianexpress.com on a day he donned the suit of a Uber driver-partner for a few hours, Singh said Uber was addressing the problem of cancellations on the platforms which is a big pain point for many users in the metros. “It is a concern we have heard from riders and our data is also telling us that increasingly drivers are asking destination and in many cases choosing to not do certain trips,” Singh accepted.

Singh said this has prompted Uber to test features that give additional information to drivers so that they are able to make that judgement thoughtfully without having to ask the rider the destination. “For example, we want the drivers to accept and complete as many trips because that ensures marketplace efficiency. So we are educating them within the app that if you let go X percentage of your requests, this is the earning potential which you left on the table,” he explained, adding how this “combination of transparency and education and incentives” is more constructive when it comes to tackling the problem.

Singh was also bullish on the possibilities of products like Uber Auto in a supply-constrained marketplace like India. “We are recognising that certain segments of riders prefer more affordable solutions. So we have taken the same technology and deployed it for Uber Auto in a big way. This is a category which is growing in a very, very material manner,” he said, adding that he expects this segment will become a very large percentage of Uber’s business going forward.

“One out of every three trips on the platform is already happening on a three-wheeler which just shows how fast the market is shifting,” he said, adding how Uber Auto for instance was going to be the flagship product in markets like Chennai.

Hear the full podcast with Prabhjeet Singh below.

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