The Business Times

Marking three years in Singapore, Uber says it has learnt much here

Republic is "an open environment for introducing and adopting new technologies"

Published Sun, Apr 10, 2016 · 09:50 PM


AS Uber completes its third year in Singapore, it has evolved from just a ridebooking app to become a vehicle financing platform as well. During this time, the Republic has taught it lessons and best practices, says Warren Tseng, general manager of Uber Singapore.

"The forward-thinking leadership of Singapore and vision for a Smart Nation have made the country a testing ground for intelligent marketplace improvements," Mr Tseng told The Business Times.

Many of Uber's core product features in fact started here and were then exported globally, including UberASSIST (which provides additional assistance to seniors and people with disabilities through specially trained driver-partners) and Uber- Spotify (which lets riders listen to their preferred Spotify tunes through their vehicle's speakers).

Uber also pioneered a number of firsts in Singapore - from delivering ice-cream and haze masks using Uber vehicles to offering on-demand lion dances at Chinese New Year and rides in supercars during the Formula One season.

"Our experience in Singapore has taught us what an open environment Singapore is for introducing and adopting new technologies - from new business models to new mobile apps," said Mr Tseng.

Uber is not yet authorised to operate a third-party taxi-booking service here, even though it registered with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) over a year ago under a new regulatory framework. Its peers Grab, Hailo, Karhoo and Moobi have successfully registered. UberTAXI can still continue to operate in the meantime until its application outcome is known, according to LTA.

Mr Tseng describes the local rider and driver community as "amazing", adding that "we have grown so much together".

"A lot has happened" since January 2013 when the San Francisco-based company launched in Singapore - its first city in Asia - with the same vision to create a convenient, reliable and safe transportation option to reduce congestion and make cities more efficient.

Uber's latest vehicle financing programme is an example, he said. It helps drivers receive up to 80 per cent financing on a new car when they buy it at any of Uber's partner dealers. The car will be "Z10 classified" with the LTA - a label given to private hire (chauffeur) motor cars.

Mr Tseng said: "It might seem counterintuitive to say helping people get a car loan could reduce cars on the road, but we believe that getting more Z10 classified vehicles on the road, and driving on the Uber platform, not only creates more safe, reliable ridesharing options for Singaporeans, it also helps reduce the need for private-use vehicles."

When asked if Uber Singapore recently slashed its incentives used to attract drivers because supply has been overwhelming, Mr Tseng replied in the negative. "I don't think we would ever say we have too many. The growth in this community reflects the growth in demand from our riders. In every market, we are always offering and experimenting with a variety of incentives."

Currently, drivers of uberX (Uber's lowest-cost private-hire car option here) are promised hourly wages of S$36 by working from 6am to 10am on Fridays. Drivers who complete at least 121 trips in a week (earning about S$1,800 in total fares) can keep as much as 90 per cent of the fares as an additional incentive.

Since 2013, Uber has amassed "tens of thousands" of partner drivers, "hundreds of thousands" of riders, and more than 100 million kilometres in rides collectively. Mr Tseng said: "We've gone from two people in a tiny co-working space on Martin Road to hundreds of employees in a shiny new Asia-Pacific headquarters in a Tanjong Pagar high-rise."

Singapore is adapting to be a true example of a smart city in Asia, he added. "Uber is excited to bring more innovation to Singapore."

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