Operating in about 250 cities in 50 countries, San Francisco-based technology company, Uber has been engaged in a series of disputes with traditional taxi drivers and companies in Europe, the United States and India. As of mid-2015, protests were staged in England, Italy, Poland, China, Spain and Germany, with the most recent of the protests occurring in Egypt.
The online taxi company is no stranger to controversy. In the United States alone, Uber has been involved in at least 173 lawsuits since October 2012. Some weeks ago, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, along with other traditional cab drivers, protested the Uber’s fare cut, calling it greed and monopoly. Similar complaints were made in Kenya as local taxi drivers said they were unable to compete with the rate cuts and saw Uber as a threat to their job.
Amidst these controversies, Uber appears to still grow as it keeps expanding across the world, signing up more drivers and offering more affordable rides for travellers. Uber has been known for its aggressive business practices and the recent loss incurred in China and Russia is a pointer the company needs to understand how the international environment operates.
Uber may opt for lobbyists and litigators across countries to suppress these controversies. However Evan Rudowski, the founder and managing partner of Atlantic Leap advised that a company with expansion plans should incorporate the art of diplomacy to evade protests and controversies across national boundaries.
As a new entrant into other countries Uber may be able to avoid controversies and protests by taking collaborative steps with local taxi drivers as opposed to engaging them in competition which has proved to be the major reason for their protests. In Kenya for instance, local taxi operators claimed that the company’s cheap pricing model is denying them their livelihood.
Uber needs to take a cue from its experience in Germany, after it reached out to licenced taxi drivers to seek cooperation and maintain its presence in German cities. Though a late approach, it proved a cooperative method could be the solution.