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Uber Agrees in Principle to Exit Southeast Asia for Stake in Rival

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That’s the headline of my newest story, which I wrote with my colleagues Greg Bensinger and Julie Steinberg. It ran late Thursday, and begins:

Uber Technologies Inc. has reached an agreement in principle to sell most of its Southeast Asia operations to local rival Grab Inc., ending a costly fight for market share in the fast-growing region, according to people familiar with the matter.

In exchange for its operations in Southeast Asia, Uber would gain a roughly 30% stake in Grab, these people said. The two companies are still hashing out the final terms of the pact, the people said, cautioning any deal would be subject to regulatory scrutiny. One of the people said Uber’s stake in Grab could wind up being smaller.

Uber was spending some $200 million annually to take on Grab and another upstart in the region, GoJek, two of the people said. Go-Jek, a motorcycle-taxi service based in Indonesia, recently raised more than $1 billion in funding from KKR & Co. and Tencent Holdings Ltd., among others.

Click through to read the rest.

Uber Battles Ride-Sharing Startups in SoftBank ‘Family’

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That’s the headline of my newest story, which I wrote with my colleage Mayumi Negishi, out today. It begins:

SoftBank Group Corp., the world’s biggest technology investor, has poured some $20 billion into ride-sharing companies around the globe, including Uber Technologies Inc.

Now, those companies are spending at least some of SoftBank’s money to battle each other.

In Japan, Uber is gearing up to fight China’s Didi Chuxing Technology Co., which is planning to enter the market after an investment by SoftBank of around $10 billion.

In India, Uber is facing off with local champion ANI Technologies Inc.’s Ola, in which SoftBank has about a 30% stake and a board seat. SoftBank invested $7.7 billion in Uber for a 15% stake this year.

Uber and Ola are also grappling in Australia, where Ola started operations in February. Uber in Southeast Asia is trailing Singapore’s Grab Inc., whose president joined from SoftBank in 2016 following its $750 million investment in the company.

Click through to read the rest.

By Me Today: Uber Hits Roadblocks in Southeast Asia

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The story begins:

SINGAPORE—When Uber Technologies Inc. retreated from China last year after conceding a costly battle with a local rival, the ride-hailing giant vowed to devote new resources to winning other lucrative markets in Asia.

Since then, Uber has suffered setbacks in Southeast Asia, a region of 600 million people, where it has been outflanked by another local player, Grab Inc., which is gobbling up market share. Grab has expanded more rapidly, been more nimble in meeting local preferences, analysts say, and has forged better relations with regulators.

Grab has more monthly active users than Uber across six Southeast Asian countries, according to app analytics firm App Annie, while a May report from consultancy Bain found users across the region prefer Grab to Uber.

Now Uber investors and analysts believe the region may be the next to be ceded by Uber, which withdrew from Russia in July.

Click through to read the rest.

 

 

By Me Today: India’s Ola in Talks to Raise Up to $2 Billion

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The story begins:

NEW DELHI—Uber Technologies Inc.’s rival in India, Ola, is in talks to raise as much as $2 billion, a cash injection that would provide added fuel to fight the San Francisco ride-hailing giant in the world’s second-most-populous country.

ANI Technologies Pvt.’s Ola, based in Bangalore, is in discussions to receive the funds from Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. and possibly one or more other backers, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Ola, which launched in 2011—two years before Uber’s arrival in India—is locked in a tight battle with the U.S. firm for control of the Indian market, which could prove lucrative as millions of people join the internet economy via inexpensive smartphones.

Click through to read the rest.

Uber Rented Defective Cars in Singapore: Our Page 1 Story

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I’m late in mentioning this as I’ve been on the road for a few weeks — and if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook this may be old news — but I wanted to link to a page 1 story I wrote with colleagues that ran earlier this month.

The headline: “Smoke, Then Fire: Uber Knowingly Leased Unsafe Cars to Drivers.” And the dek: “Chasing breakneck growth, the ride-hailing giant bought Honda SUVs in Singapore subject to a recall — then one caught fire.”

The piece begins:

Uber driver Koh Seng Tian had just dropped off a passenger in a residential neighborhood in Singapore when he smelled smoke in his Honda Vezel sport-utility vehicle. Flames burst from the dashboard, melting the interior and cracking a football-sized hole in his windshield.

Mr. Koh walked away unhurt, according to the accident report filed with authorities. But the fire this January caused panic at Uber Technologies Inc.

The ride-hailing company had rented the Vezel to Mr. Koh after Honda Motor Co. recalled the model in April 2016 for an electrical component that could overheat and catch fire.

Uber managers in Singapore were aware of the Honda recall when they bought more than 1,000 defective Vezels and rented them to Mr. Koh and other drivers without the needed repairs, according to internal Uber emails and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with people familiar with Uber’s operations in the region.

Click through to see some images and read the rest.

The story was followed by news outlets across the globe, including Bloomberg, Reuters, USA TODAY, CNBC, CNN, Quartz, Axios and more.

Scoop Mon. With Colleagues: Indonesia’s Go-Jek in Talks to Raise $1 Billion

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The exclusive, with my WSJ colleagues P.R. Venkat and Kane Wu, begins:

Go-Jek, the Indonesian motorcycle-hailing startup backed by KKR & Co., Warburg Pincus LLC and others, is in talks with investors to raise $1 billion, people familiar with the process said.

The new money would give the Jakarta company added power to battle rivals Uber Technologies Inc. and Singapore’s Grab for a lead in Southeast Asia’s largest economy. The company is seeking the new money to expand, with the first round of bids due by the end of this month, one of the people said.

Beijing’s China International Capital Corp. and Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group AG are among the banks assisting in raising funds, according to people familiar with the matter. Representatives for Go-Jek didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

The cash injection would give Go-Jek a pre-money valuation of about $2 billion, the people said. A pre-money valuation refers to the value of a startup before fresh funds are included. Go-Jek raised around $550 million in August at an undisclosed valuation.

This would be more money for one of Southeast Asia’s hottest startups. And more competition for Uber and Grab in the region.

About a quarter of the time I take Ubers here in Delhi the driver asks me, when I get out, to give him a five-star rating. (Drivers must maintain a certain rating to ensure they can continue working on the platform.)

Usually I just nod my head and say “yeah okay,” and proceed to give them whatever score I would have given them anyway. 

The other day a driver did something different. 

As I was getting out of the car he said “sir” to get my attention, then pointed at his phone, where he had selected five stars in his rating for me

Then when he saw I was looking, he pressed submit.

When it came time for me to score him later, I also gave him a similar rating. 

He was a good driver indeed, but he also understood the law of reciprocity. He knew the difference between just saying something and actually taking action. And that I may well feel inclined to help him out too (since riders are also ranked). 

Clever. 

Newley’s Notes 77: Uber in India; Apple Scoop; OMGWTF: New ‘Bladerunner’?

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Edition 77 of my email newsletter went out to subscribers yesterday. It’s pasted in below.

To get these weekly dispatches delivered to your inbox before I post them on Newley.com, enter your email address here. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s brief, and few people unsubscribe.


Hi friends, thanks for reading Newley’s Notes, a weekly newsletter in which I share links to my stories and various items I think are worth highlighting.

I hope you had an enjoyable holiday period. Best wishes for a happy new year.

My apologies: This week’s Newley’s Notes is a couple of days late due to holiday travel.

A and I just returned to Delhi after an excellent stay at Neemrana Fort Palace, about three hours by car south of here.

It’s a 15th century fort that’s been turned into a hotel. It’s quiet, the countryside is beautiful, and there’s even a fascinating stepwell nearby. I highly recommended it for a quick getaway from Delhi.

Okay. On to this week’s edition.

WHAT I WROTE IN THE WSJ

Uber’s Drive Into India Relies on Raw Recruits – This is a story I’d been working on for some time, and I was happy with how it turned out. It begins:

NEW DELHI—How do you train a million new Uber drivers in a country where most people have never driven a car, tapped on a smartphone or even used an online map?

Uber Technologies Inc. faces that daunting task as it tries to avoid its fate in China, where it decided this year to sell its business to homegrown champion Didi Chuxing Technology Co.

The $68 billion San Francisco startup has plenty of cash and cutting-edge technology to bring to its battle in India. Also, the country hasn’t thrown up the kind of regulatory hurdles that have hindered Uber’s growth in other regions. So the company’s ability to find and teach new drivers could decide whether Uber can dominate this fast-growing market.

Click through for the rest of the piece, along with a video narrated by yours truly.

I also wrote a sidebar titled “5 Ways Uber Is Tweaking Its Strategy in India.”. These localizations include accepting cash payments, going app-less, using motorbikes and more.

Apple Is Discussing Manufacturing in India, Government Officials Say – A scoop with a colleague that was followed by Reuters and picked up by many outlets.

It begins:

NEW DELHI— Apple Inc. is discussing with the Indian government the possibility of manufacturing its products in the country, according to two senior government officials, as the company seeks to expand its sales and presence in the South Asian nation.

In a letter to the government last month, the Cupertino, Calif., firm outlined its plans and sought financial incentives to move ahead, the officials told The Wall Street Journal. Senior Trade Ministry authorities in recent weeks met to discuss the matter.

An Apple spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

I’ve written, as you’ll recall, about Apple in India before. It’s a huge market for the firm’s potential future growth.

FIVE ITEMS THAT ARE WORTH YOUR TIME THIS WEEK:

1) Wait, there’s a new “Bladerunner” coming? How did I miss this news?

Longtime readers will know the 1982 Ridley Scott sci-fi classic is one of my favorite films.

Well, “Bladerunner 2049” will be here in October. The trailer’s on YouTube here. Wikipedia sums up the plot this way:

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

The trailer: meh. The idea of “Bladerunner” returning? A slightly more optimistic meh. I feel like I should be excited about this.

2) An analysis by Quartz of 36 best books of the year lists shows the title most mentioned has been Colson Whitehead’s novel “The Underground Railroad.”

I haven’t read it. Have you?

3) Jerry Lewis is a tough guy to interview.

In this seven-minute video, the famed, 90-year-old comedian had a remarkably cranky exchange with The Hollywood Reporter.

His mocking laugh is my favorite part.

4) If the less-than-robust Mosul Dam breaks, a million and a half people could perish.

That’s the thrust of this illuminating piece by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker.

5) Was 2016 an especially bad year for celebrity deaths?

This week brought us news of George Michael’s death. Then Carrie Fisher. Then Carrie Fischer’s mom.

Snopes.com answers the question.

6) SPECIAL BONUS LINK: DESPITE WHAT YOU THINK, THE WORLD IS GETTING BETTER. There was a lot of bad news in 2016, but these six charts serve as a reminder that the world is, in the aggregate, improving.

Over the last century, extreme poverty and child mortality are down drastically, while democracy, education, literacy, and vaccinations have flourished. More info here.

Thanks for reading. Happy 2017!

Love,
Newley

How Uber’s Racing to Add Drivers Here in India

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That’s the subject of my latest story, out Thursday, which begins:

NEW DELHI—How do you train a million new Uber drivers in a country where most people have never driven a car, tapped on a smartphone or even used an online map?

Uber Technologies Inc. faces that daunting task as it tries to avoid its fate in China, where it decided this year to sell its business to homegrown champion Didi Chuxing Technology Co.

The $68 billion San Francisco startup has plenty of cash and cutting-edge technology to bring to its battle in India. Also, the country hasn’t thrown up the kind of regulatory hurdles that have hindered Uber’s growth in other regions. So the company’s ability to find and teach new drivers could decide whether Uber can dominate this fast-growing market.

Click through for a video, narrated by yours truly.

I also wrote a sidebar, “5 Ways Uber Is Tweaking Its Strategy in India.

By Me Monday: How Singapore’s Grab is Battling Uber Here in Southeast Asia

The story begins:

SINGAPORE—Uber Technologies Inc. is locked in major tussles with local rivals in China and India, but a homegrown upstart is also grabbing an advantage in the race for another Asia prize.

A startup called Grab is winning ride-hailing turf in Southeast Asia—home to 600 million people, almost double the population of the U.S. The startup serves more cities in the region than Uber and, according to mobile-app analytics firm App Annie, is beating the world’s most valuable startup in the race for users here.

The region’s ride-hailing market is forecast to grow more than five times to $13.1 billion by 2025 from $2.5 billion last year, according to a recent report on Southeast Asia’s internet economy conducted by Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Singapore state-investment firm Temasek Holdings.

There’s also a video, embedded at the top of the post, in the story, and online here. (You may recognize the narrator’s voice.)

I last wrote about Grab — previously known as GrabTaxi — when they teamed up with fellow ride-sharing firms Lyft and Ola, and when they raised new funds last year.

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