Uber CEO plans to 'invest aggressively' to compete with rivals Southeast Asia

Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has distanced the company from reports that it might exit Southeast Asia and India.

Currently in India on his maiden visit to Asia as Uber boss, Khosrowshahi told an audience that the company plans to continue to invest in Southeast Asia, where Uber has slipped behind Grab and Indonesia-based Go-Jek.

“We expect to lose money in Southeast Asia and expect to invest aggressively in terms of marketing, subsidies etc,” Khosrowshahi told reporters, according to Reuters. “From a competitive standpoint we think we can improve.”

“Right now the plan for Southeast Asia is to go forward, lean forward and to invest,” he added.

Last week, a CNBC report suggested Uber was planning to offload its loss-making Southeast Asia business to rival Grab, which is valued at $6 billion and also counts SoftBank as an investor.

There has also been speculation of a deal between Ola, which SoftBank has also invested in, and Uber. The Uber CEO denied having M&A plans in India but said it is “fun to speculate about.”

Khosrowshahi has previously spoken of challenging economics in Southeast Asia — where ride-sharing revenues are estimated at $5.1 billion last year and Uber is not profitable — but he said that the company “should actively be investing” in regions where there’s growth potential, such as Asia and Latin America.

Southeast Asia certainly has potential. A recent Google-Temasek report noted that the ride-hailing market in the region has grown four-fold since 2015 and it is tipped to reach $20.1 billion by 2025. More generally, Southeast Asia is now the world’s third-largest region for internet users — with more people online than the entire U.S. population — with upwards of 3.8 million people coming online for the first time each month.

India, meanwhile, is already a key market. Today it accounts for over 10 percent of Uber’s ride volumes but it is not yet profitable, according to Khosrowshahi.

“The greatest value that we can create here is to continue to invest and grow our business here, not just for India but the role it is going to play in shaping our product for the rest of the world,” he said.