BUSINESS

I Will Apply For Indian Citizenship, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Fires Back At Rivals Drumming Up Nationalism

Last week, Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal had suggested the government should consider protecting homegrown startups similar to what China did over a decade ago.

16/12/2016 5:22 PM IST | Updated 17/12/2016 11:29 AM IST
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It appears that Indian startups' recent suggestion that they need the government to protect them against deep-pocketed foreign rivals hasn't gone down too well with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Kalanick, who was speaking in New Delhi, was quick to point out the apparent irony in those statements saying both Ola and Uber are heavily foreign-owned. Not just that, he went a step further to say he is ready to turn Indian to help the company succeed.

"If it's about whether I am personally an Indian, I will apply to be a citizen of India, if this is what gets us over the hump. I think at the end of the day its about the innovations we have brought to the table, how we are serving riders... so though I don't agree with all the comments, at the end of the day, we respect competing with Ola."

Last week, Ola CEO Bhavish Aggarwal had suggested the government should consider protecting homegrown startups similar to what China did over a decade ago.

"It's much easier for non-Indian companies to raise capital because they have profitable markets elsewhere," Aggarwal had said. "You might call it capital dumping, predatory pricing or anti-WTO but it's a very unfair playing field for Indian startups."

Kalanick described Ola as a fierce competitor that pushes Uber to innovate. Many venture capital-backed startups in India including cab aggregators have generously offered subsidised rides to customers to gain traction.

Kalanick cautioned, however, as companies gain scale, it would become difficult for them to break even if they continued to discount and subsidise rides.

"... the kind of subsidies that you can put into the market when you get bigger, are just not meaningful because it (subsidies) gets too big. So what you will see from both the companies over the coming months and years is that it will get to break even and profitability and I look forward to it," the billionaire entrepreneur said.

Uber and Ola's fight for dominance in India's $12 billion taxi market has also resulted in a legal battle.

Kalanick co-founded Uber in 2009 and the firm has gone on to become the world's most valuable startup worth $70 billion.

Uber launched in India three years ago and now provides services in 29 Indian cities, while SoftBank-backed rival Ola is present in 102 cities. Uber last year said it had invested $1 billion in India, but has declined to give an updated figure.

With PTI and Reuters inputs

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