Speaking for the first time since the news of a 25-year-old financial analyst was raped by an Uber cab driver broke, the mobile app based cab hailing service said banning it is not the solution to the challenge of safety for women in the city.
Excerpts from an interview with Uber’s Head of Asia operations Allen Penn and Deval Delivala from Delhi operations.
Q: What is your verification process for driver who register themselves with you? Do you check their antecedents?
AP: We check drivers license, commercial vehicle registration and banking information. We get that for all the drivers. We have had frequent communication with the police and we hope justice is brought. We know the documents that are required. All payments to drivers are made electronically to their bank accounts. Banks have KYC for all account holders. We will see what else can we do. We will continue to improve.
DD: We check vehicles and its condition. We check all documents and have an entire checklist that is followed.
Q: Are you cooperating with the investigation?
AP: On Saturday we got a call early in the morning from Delhi Police for information. The name they had didn’t match the name in our system but the phone number did. We were able to match it to the profile and provided them the name, photo and address that matched our files. We provided the entire route taken by the cab through GPS. We have a team in Delhi and about 50 people across India. It has been very hard on our team, which is though nothing compared to what the victim went through.
Q: Have you met the victim?
AP: I haven’t met the victim yet but we are open to meeting her to express our sympathies. Last few days have been very difficult for everyone in the city and from Uber’s perspective, our thoughts go out to the victim and her family. It is a terrible crime that has happened and we are deeply sorry for her what has happened to her. We will do whatever we can to support her family
Q: It has been said that Uber is not following the regulations meant for cab services.
AP: Trying to get details on what it entails. We respect the government, rules and regulations. The backdrop is challenging. It’s a conflict we see in cities around the world. New technology matching up with regulations that are old and go back to the 1980s or even 1800s. we are connecting fully licensed drivers through the app and allowing them to grow their business, to become entrepreneurs. We are delivering benefits to riders and that’s what we want to point out and continue to flourish. The services have become popular because we provide value. We respect the government and the rules and we want to resolve any misunderstanding. We function under guidelines. We will continue to be through in our checks.
We need education and people start to focus on how Uber works. They find it is different and these services are super popular.
Blaming an entire industry doesn’t not seem to be the right answer. The trips (taken by the same drivers) happened earlier too and they existed before Uber and people booked these services through phone or websites. All these trips were already happening. We always check vehicles and all documents in person when a driver first comes to us. We know what documents are required but these drivers are not employed by us. These are the same drivers with the same licenses who are now just getting bookings through an app instead of phone. May be we need to look at model regulations for aggregators. With 30 per cent driving licenses being fake, it poses a challenge. It is so efficient that people will stop driving, otherwise we will not have highways and just parking lots.
Uber model complies with the regulations. There is some misunderstanding on how it works. We don’t own any car or employ drivers.
Q: Uber has become popular in a short time and people relied on the name. How safe is the system in the backdrop of the recent incident?
AP: We don’t take safety lightly and are very sorry if we let our riders down. It is a very safe platform. Safety is our number one priority. We are technology based service and both drivers and riders find value in it. We are building a platform where people feel safe and will continue to do more. We are trying to make it as safe as possible. Technology is powerful and part of the solution. That is what we can bring with partnership with the government.
DD: We pride ourselves on safe solutions and we are focusing a lot more on what we can do. We can build an emergency hotline in the app. We are a technology company and we are focused on what we can bring to the government.
Q: Have you met any government officials or ministers?
AP: We are welcome to talks with the officials in transportation and talk about best practices around the world. We welcome dialogue with the Delhi government and clear any miscommunication.
Q: There doesn’t seem to be any system through which a customer can make a complaint about a driver or bad service.
AP: Complaints can be made through the app or email. We get feedback and our teams work on it.
Q: Unlike other radio cabs, cabs hailed through Uber app don’t have GPS installed in them. Is it correct that a driver can turn off the phone to disconnect from the GPS system?
AP: We can track them while they are on a trip. But they are not employed by us and we can track them while they are on the system. If the driver switches off the phone, a message is sent to the rider that the trip has come to an end. We can see the entire route from start to end point, including the time taken and the speed.
Q: What are your future plans in India now that Uber has been banned in Delhi and other states might follow suit?
AP: Our drivers are questioning what’s going to happen to them? There are thousands of people whose livelihoods would be affected. We are going to support the drivers. We want to make sure that they continue to have a livelihood. Lets also respect those whose livelihood depends on this.
Q: How much has the incident affected Uber’s reputation and future growth in India?
AP: The company’s perception is our last concern. We want to see that justice is done. Riders rely on us and we would always focus on doing the right thing. The company can take care of itself. We see ourselves as a long term member of this community.
Our thoughts go out to the victim and her family for the terrible crime that has happened. We are deeply sorry for what happened. Safety is our number one priority. We are willing to cooperate with the government and have a dialogue.
Q: Despite the services being banned in Delhi, Uber app is still functional, which is illegal.
AP: The app is still on.
Watch: Uber cab driver's mother wants punishment for her son's crime