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In India, carpooling and ride-sharing can actually improve urban mobility: Uber

according to Uber, carpooling and sharing a ride can actually help with the congestion and pollution problems in the urban areas in India

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Uber began testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh and is now rolling out the service in San Francisco. (Uber), VOA

New Delhi, Jan 15, 2017: Getting “more people into fewer cars” has the potential to cut congestion and, therefore, pollution in urban cities. In India, carpooling and ride-sharing can actually improve urban mobility and global online cab-hailing app Uber has hit the ground running on this count.

For a country that considers car ownership as a status symbol, it has been interesting to note that people are finally adapting to the idea of sharing rides.

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The San Francisco-headquartered firm launched UberPOOL — a service that enables people going the same way at the same time to share their journey — in Bengaluru in September 2015. Thereafter, it was introduced in Delhi in December 2015, followed by Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and, more recently, in Chennai.

“The response we have got on UberPOOL has been phenomenal so far and is fast-emerging as the most preferred mode of transport for riders in India. More than 31 per cent of rides in Delhi are on UberPOOL and over 20 per cent of the UberPOOL rides are in the remaining five cities — Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai,” Apurva Dalal, Head of Engineering, Uber India, told IANS.

“Since the launch of UberPOOL in the country, the company has partnered with citizens in saving over 32 million km of vehicle-travel, over 1.5 million litres of fuel, reducing CO2 emissions worth 3.5 million kg,” Dalal claimed.

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UberCOMMUTE — the ride-sharing feature for those who embark on long rides on a daily basis to share journey with a fellow commuter headed in the same direction and recoup the costs — is also picking up.

“If we aspire for every journey in India to be a shared journey, we need to use private cars for the public good. How do we encourage people who own a car to carpool more often with Uber technology making the experience seamless?,” asked Dalal who has previously led the Google India Development Centre.

There are over 2.7 million cars in Delhi but less than 100,000 are eligible to use ridesharing apps.

“Similarly, we have hundreds of thousands of riders in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai who can be encouraged to share their rides with appropriate government support for this,” Dalal told IANS.

According to the Uber executive, more cars that are eligible for ride-sharing and more passengers per car is the only way to get rid of the congestion on city roads.

“Cities in India suffer from some of the worst congestion in the world. For example, on an average, we have 1.2 people in one car at any given point, with the average asset utilisation rate as low as five per cent. There is an appetite for more options for reliable and efficient ways to get to and from work,” Dalal noted.

Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, who was recently in India, also spoke at length about how to decongest mega cities in the country.

“Our journey in India started three years ago with Bengaluru; the growth since then has been phenomenal. We started with three employees and are now a 700-people team operating across 29 cities with over 400,000 driver-partners on our platform, of which 50 per cent are active at any given point in time,” Dalal informed.

The company has also ramped up its engineering centre in Bengaluru — the only one in Asia — to tap into the deep tech talent pool in the country.

The centre’s aim is to innovate on transportation technology for India, many of which (innovations) are then rolled out in other markets around the globe. Additionally, it has also set up a Centre of Excellence in Hyderabad.

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“We are also investing aggressively in India especially in the areas of research and expansion. We are confident that ridesharing is going to be the future of urban mobility and are going to focus our efforts a lot more in helping build awareness of this mode of transportation,” Dalal stated.

Uber has also introduced a lot of firsts in India.

UberGO — a new range of low cost, chauffeur-driven hatchbacks (like Etios Liva and Maruti Ritz) that was first rolled out for riders in India — is now available in Turkey.

Cash as a payment option was first piloted in Hyderabad in May 2015. The option is now available in various parts of the world, including Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia.

“We recently launched a new rider app, rebuilt completely from the ground up for the first time, since the last redesign in 2012,” Dalal said, adding that the India experience shows that carpooling and ride-sharing will sure make a tangible difference when it comes to helping with pollution and congestion.

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Investors in Vietnam to be More Cautious While Investing in Tech Startups

Vietnamese Investors More Cautious with Tech Startups

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Investors and entrepreneurs in the communist nation are taking a more critical look at their businesses after seeing others get burned overseas. Pixabay

Vietnamese startups are heading into the new year looking to avoid the mistakes of such companies as Uber and WeWork, which disappointed investors in 2019 for failing to turn a profit after so much buildup.

Investors and entrepreneurs in the communist nation are taking a more critical look at their businesses after seeing others get burned overseas. WeWork, which rents out shared workspaces, was seen as a cautionary tale of a startup that did not live up to expectations and was not profitable.

For years, investors were willing to back losing businesses to gain market share. But now, there is more scrutiny of new investments.

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Ho Chi Minh City is the business hub of Vietnam, where fast economic growth has attracted startup investors. VOA

Benchmarks set

The Vietnam Innovative Startup Accelerator (VIISA) requires its technology startups to meet a list of benchmarks throughout their time in the program.

“Apart from very intuitive selection criteria that all applying startups have to go through, the program has introduced a new development measurement method, which helps us to capture the progress of startups that are accepted into VIISA,” Hieu Vo, a board member and chief financial officer at VIISA, said. “I think this process will bring out the best in each person for the particular business they have founded and committed to.”

Vo said his colleagues sit down with startups when they join the accelerator to discuss key performance indicators, or KPI, that will be set as goals. VIISA also does training for the young businesses so they have quantifiable skills, such as how to structure a business deal, or how to set up their accounting system.

Having metrics and ratings, Vo said, supports “both business performance, as well as personal transformation of founders.”

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Uber was one among those companies that left investors disappointed in 2019. Wikimedia Commons

Founder scrutiny

The founder as an individual has become a point of scrutiny for investors, who used to be more forgiving of an eccentric or aggressive founder, seen as part of the package to have a tech genius head an innovative business. But there has been a backlash among those who think too much permissiveness can damage a business, from the sexual misconduct amid the workplace culture of Uber, to the conflicts of interest in business decisions at WeWork.

It helps to not just think short term and to have an outside perspective, according to Pham Manh Ha, founder and chief executive officer of Beekrowd, an investment platform in Ho Chi Minh City.

“As a first-time founder, it seems impossible for us to look beyond the first six months to a year of our business,” he said, adding that experienced third parties can help businesses take the long view. “They stand outside the trees that are blocking us from seeing the forest.”

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To see the forest, Vietnamese businesses like his are taking a more measured approach. Vietnam has seen an escalation of tech startups, as investors have rushed to put their money to work and take advantage of the economy’s fast growth.

They also remember the dot-com bubble in the United States, and the more recent global tech bubble, two reminders for caution. (VOA)