India is Uber’s second largest market worldwide behind the U.S., and today the company showed its commitment to the South Asian market by appointing its first ‘President’ to head up its business there.
Uber has hired Amit Jain, an IIT Delhi and Stanford graduate who was most recently President of U.S.-based Rent.com, the once eBay-owned real estate listings site. Jain, who lists TPG Capital and McKinsey as former employers, is charged with leading “all business strategy, operations, and growth in a market of global strategic importance for Uber,” the company said.
The move is an interestingly symbolic one, since Uber doesn’t tend to appoint figure heads to lead it in a country. It prefers smaller teams that run its business on a city-by-city basis, but obviously felt India is enough of a priority to warrant an overall lead.
“I’m thrilled to have Amit on board to lead our business in India,” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in a statement. “Success in India is a global priority for us, and I know Amit’s leadership and passion for Uber’s mission will be transformational as we redefine urban mobility for hundreds of millions of Indians.”
Jain himself lauded Uber’s role “helping [to] create tens of thousands of new jobs [in India], empowering drivers with higher earnings potential and flexible work hours, and providing millions of consumers with a safe, reliable and convenient mode of transport.”
India is a huge opportunity for any internet firm, given its 1.2 billion population and the increasing rate of smartphone adoption, and Uber is one company that is heavily investing in the country.
Uber arrived in India less than two years, but quickly scaled and currently covers 11 cities. That is significantly less than market leader Ola, which is present in over 100 and targeting 200 by the end of the year, but Uber has gone deep in India’s top-tier cities. It has expanded beyond its standard limousine (Uber Black) service and introduced a range of experiments as it aims to grab a chunk of the market and position itself as more Indians come online and identify the need to hail taxis from their phone.
Across India, Uber offers India-specific auto rickshaws and chauffeured hatchbacks rides, while it introduced new safety measures to India first and is currently piloting cash payments in Hyderabad.
The U.S. company has, of course, also experienced controversy. The alleged rape of a passenger in New Delhi caused its service to be suspended — now available again, Uber is currently operating a “no profit” model in the city, where it began working with a safety data service to provide more information to passengers.
Uber’s hiring of Jain is also another example of an Indian technology executive returning home from the U.S. for a job. E-commerce players Flipkart and Snapdeal are among the companies to have lured talent from Silicon Valley — the former landed former Google and Motorola exec Punit Soni — and it is a trend that is set to continue.