Uber, the ridesharing app that is redefining urban mobility across the world, today organized a Tech Day in New Delhi, to bring to the forefront the technology that powers the Uber app. It provided a platform to highlight India-centric innovations and the role technology plays to make the experiences as seamless as possible, for both riders and drivers.
The company also announced the appointment of Shirish Andhare as Head of Product and Growth, Uber India. In his role, he will lead the way to build innovative products keeping in mind the diversity and vastness of India as a market. He also brings with him a depth of experience in product development, where his forte has been his ability to understand markets and create offerings that provide smart solutions through technological innovations across a variety of domains - from voice, web, and mobile applications to security, and payments.
The event saw the ‘Techies’ at Uber, Apurva Dalal, Head of Engineering, Uber India, Vinay Ramani, Head of Global Growth, Uber and Shirish Andhare, the newly appointed Head of Products and Growth, give an in-depth perspective on the technology that powers the app and what happens when riders push a button to get a ride.
Vinay Ramani, Head of Global Growth, Uber India said, “As a brand we have always focused on constantly innovating to change lives for the better. India as a country poses some unique challenges like connectivity, navigation and smartphone penetration. Currently, our product experts and engineering teams in India and around the world are working on innovative solutions that will help improve the overall rider and driver experience. In several cases, these solutions are India-first initiatives, for example, we launched Cash as a payment option and we then extended this to global markets, like the UK, and several South East Asian markets.”
Apurva Dalal, Head of Engineering, Uber India, further explained, “We are incredibly passionate about India and are still identifying the opportunities wherein we can provide innovative solutions for both riders and drivers. Engineering, we believe, is core to Uber, which is why we established Asia’s first Engineering Centre in Bangalore. At this centre, we are focused on developing smart engineering and technology solutions for drivers, fleet managers and riders that enhances the overall ride experience. Going further, we are looking at developing our engineering brains and strengthening the team at the centre to come up with creative solutions to close the gaps within the overall experience.”
Shirish Andhare, Head of Products, Uber India, spoke about how Uber’s technology creates great experiences - “We aim to create a magical experience by marrying empathy with our technological expertise. We build these experiences through careful listening which involves several data driven studies where we engage very deeply with our driver partners and study rider behaviour. The product that a rider or our driver partner uses has been designed to offer a seamless ride. For instance, shortcuts, saved places, calendar Integration, vehicle view, request a ride for others are additions to the App that make sure that our users do not face issues at any of the touch points.”
Session 1: Building a global + local product: Vinay Ramani, Head of Global Growth, Uber showcased how Uber localizes and adapts Uber’s product stack to best fit the local market needs.
Driver Growth: Uber’s technology is about finding good drivers - either through organic or referred channels and then enabling them in taking their first ride with Uber. Some of the technology-led innovations include:
· uberDOST, a referral platform first built for the Indian market, it enables people to sign up drivers on the Uber platform. Individuals earn referral payments by helping their local driver-partner community grow. This is now being used in other markets like Peru.
· Chat, voice and SMS solutions: Technology is helping Uber overcome linguistic barriers to helps drivers onboard and operate seamlessly everyday.
· Road Safety: Uber recently launched a series of new safety features in the driver app to improve road safety, which includes:
o Daily reports to drivers to compare their driving patterns with other drivers in their city—with suggestions on how to provide a smoother, safer ride.
o Messages in the driver app informing drivers that mounting their phone on the dashboard is safer than holding the phone in their hands.
o Speed display in the app that alerts drivers to help keep overspeeding in check.
o Reminders to drivers on the importance of taking a break when they need it.
Rider Experience: Uber is committed to ensure that riders have a seamless experience when hailing and completing a ride on the app. The products are designed to connect riders with the closest available driver, navigate the fastest path to their destination, and give riders an accurate ETA. Technologies like Uber are also providing an incredible opportunity to improve safety of rider and drivers in new and innovative ways—before, during and after every ride.
· Cash as a payment option was first piloted in India, knowing that the primary mode of payment for Indians is still Cash. Uber has now taken this mode of payment to other parts of the world, including LatAm, Africa and parts of Asia (Nairobi, Vietnam, Sri Lanka) which are primarily cash economies.
· Digital payment options: Uber introduced a payment solution with PayTM for the Indian market to comply with the RBI’s mandated two-factor authentication rules. This ensures a seamless and convenient mode of travelling for riders. Uber is also looking at UPI as a payment option for riders. This is still in early stages.
Session 2: Inside Uber’s Engineering: Apurva Dalal, Head of Engineering, Uber India, highlighted the innovations driven by the engineering team to build the best transportation technology for India and the world.
India Engineering Center - building for India and the World: Uber launched Asia’s first Engineering Center in Bengaluru (Bangalore) in January 2016, a testament to Uber’s commitment to investing in India. In keeping with Uber’s global mission to make ‘transportation as reliable as running water’, a strong team of engineers are working on product innovations and localizations in India. While the Bangalore team focuses on rider experience, driver growth and marketplace efficiency, the Hyderabad team builds FinTech solutions that are used worldwide. Uber’s product and engineering teams in India and around the world are constantly working on rolling out innovative features that provides a great experience for riders and driver partners on the app.
· Cash payments
· UberDOST: Refer a driver
· Rider Safety: In-app emergency feature
· Sign-up lite: Email-less sign up
· Arrears handling
· UberHire: Uber for longer trips
Vehicle tracking and telematics: Developed in-house by the engineering team in Bangalore, vehicle tracking and telematics, is an experiment that is being run in some markets on vehicles from our leasing subsidiary. This experiment will helps Uber monitor vehicles to guard against theft and misuse, and also keeps the health of the vehicle in check, to lower maintenance costs. If successful, Uber is committed to expand this to more vehicles and markets, provided we have regulatory clearance and mandatory permissions, which will help roll this out without compromising on privacy and security of riders, drivers and the country.
Session 3: An intuitive rider app - Shirish Andhare, Head of India Product, Uber India brought to life the India-focused product innovations from Uber.
New Rider App: Uber is using technology to help move people around cities. The new Uber app was designed around the rider, for whom time is a luxury and they always need the information at their fingertips. This app is unique as it was rebuilt from ground up, keeping in mind the changing needs of riders to deliver a much faster and improved interface.