Since nobody did it, let’s take a brief look at how Uber’s Asia-based peers inspired its new product launches last week.
This is not intended to knock Uber, but instead to show Asia is responsible for new ideas and approaches. Indeed, ATR understands that CEO Dara Khosrowshahi made a recent visit to Southeast Asia to meet with Grab (he is a board member) and check out the latest updates from the region.
Uber has now merged rides and food on its home screen
This is a given in Southeast Asia where, for some time, Gojek and Grab have offered an array of non-transportation services on the home screen.
Uber added in-trip safety reporting
China’s Didi Chuxing added a button
that places a call directly to police in the event a passenger needs it during their ride. Unfortunately it took the murder of two female for this to happen.
Uber now supports multimodal trip planning with public transport
This may be an Uber first. India’s Ola last year acquired a startup
that handles buying public transport tickets and monitoring traffic. It was suggested that the deal could help Ola customers combine public transport with cars, but so far that hasn’t happened. (Uber recently began to show JUMP and Lime bikes in its app, cribbing from Didi in China which added a range of bike sharing services a long time back.)
New subscriptions and improved rewards
Grab has offered subscriptions in Singapore
(at least) for some time, and the Singapore company is among those to pioneer reward points.
An improved Uber driver app
Unsure on this one.
Uber launches its own incubator
In more detail: This is an initiative that’s open to both Uber employees and those outside of Uber to develop products and services on top of Uber’s platform.
Now to the interesting part, what features might Uber add in the future?
Gojek’s Indonesia service allows users to order a massage, manicure, haircut and more than 10 other services on demand. Its fleet of motorbike taxis whisks professionals to customers’ homes. Seems a long way out of Uber’s comfort zone.
Gojek has developed its own services but Grab turned its ride-hailing app into a platform for third-party services such as grocery deliveries. This one seems very likely for Uber at some point, given the marketplace model. Former CEO Travis Kalanick believed the company could rival Amazon on logistics, which is another type of platform play.
Gojek just launched GoPlay while Grab has a tie-in with Hooq to offer episodes and movies in its app. Unlikely. Don’t wait on UberFlix.
Didi is actively working with EV makers and the government to build out infrastructure that includes charging stations, and provide benefits for drivers such as discounts for maintenance and insurance. Grab and Ola are also running smaller initiatives aimed at doing the same. The US has a more mature EV system, and Uber has/had put emphasis on autonomous cars – that unit just got spun out and it is likely its forward-facing long shot.
This is the big one in Southeast Asia. Alongside food, fintech could help Grab and Gojek eventually become profitable. I can see this happening for Uber but, with the situation different in Uber’s markets, it isn’t clear exactly what this might entail.