The European Commission also provides, in the proposal for a directive, the possibility of reducing certain salaries, if certain platforms compensate for this greater social protection with lower salaries. Could this be one of Uber’s tracks?
Again, it is very difficult to talk about specific situations. Knowing only some of the ideas that have come to the public, even from different places, it is very difficult to speak before having these concrete ideas to understand what the impact would be.
But do you think we could reach a point where it would no longer be interesting for Uber to be in Portugal because of this proposal for a directive from the European Commission? At least it already has guidelines, although there is no concrete legislation.
I can’t plot scenarios of what would happen without knowing exactly what we’re talking about. No one is immune to having to constantly assess the sustainability of their own business. This happens in any activity and in any business. We do this exercise on a fairly regular basis from the start, not just forward. What I can tell you is that whatever changes are coming, we think it’s important that they don’t compromise what partners and drivers value most – flexibility, range , the power to choose – and that users don’t have their experiences compromised either. they choose the TVDE activity — waiting time, cost of the trip itself, possibility of having a car when you need it most.
How many drivers do you have in Portugal?
There are currently around 35,000 drivers registered with IMT. We are the main application and we are the one that has been around the longest.
Of these, how many are in Uber?
It can be assumed that the vast majority, 90 and several percent of these drivers, are registered on the Uber platform.
And of those, do you have any idea how many of them have Uber as their primary business?
Do not. We know that there are profiles of partners who prefer to use the application as their sole source of income. And with the emergence of competitors and other applications, it is even more difficult to see if this specific pilot uses TVDE as a main source of income or as a supplement.
A competing platform, FreeNow, is trying to increase the number of drivers receiving benefits and has removed low-cost fares to, as it puts it, “mitigate the precariousness and low wages associated with the driver’s career”. Do you plan to follow this same strategy to reach more people?
I don’t comment on the choices and strategy of other platforms, but I can say that we don’t make decisions to reduce anyone’s income. We make decisions and create products and solutions precisely to do the opposite: to maximize the performance of partners and drivers who are connected to the application. And we do it in a way that doesn’t compromise the user experience. It is important to say that many of the solutions we launch are based on these opinions and the feedback we have received from partners and drivers. Regarding UberX Saver, it is not a low-cost fare, in fact. UberX Saver is used so that, if partners wish, they can increase the use they have of their car, of their time, at times when demand is already inherently lower. But we’re not forcing anyone to do this, it’s an option available to drivers using the Uber app. You can choose to use it or not.
But they have more customers if they use this option.
Precisely. If you use the UberX Saver option, you are guaranteed that users will only be able to use it when demand is lower. If we have activated dynamic pricing, the UberX Saver option will not be available at the same time, which means that the demand is greater than the supply balance. Drivers who choose to use this option will never receive trips from this option when demand is high. When demand is not high, they may choose to use this option and have more opportunities to travel. But they don’t have to use them, and we don’t penalize anyone for not choosing to use them.
My question was if you can’t feel obligated to use this option because it’s more in demand.
If they do, and if they think that’s a reason – and we know that many drivers think having higher demand is reason enough to use UberX Saver – it’s because they think it is worth using it. Hardly a driver, given the freedom to choose, will continue to use if he feels it is not worth it.
The European Commission also justifies these proposals by the emergence of digital platforms, which has accelerated during the pandemic. He estimates that they have seen their income increase by around 500% over the past five years and are now used by 28 million people in the European Union. How was Uber during the pandemic in terms of income, in Portugal?
We are a listed company on the American stock exchange. We don’t disclose country-specific data, but I can say that, in the presentation of the results for the last quarter of 2021, we beat all the profitability expectations that analysts and the market have set for Uber. Our revenue increased by 83%, which was well above what analysts thought it might be. In terms of the profitability that we have, in terms of profit, mobility has been one of the main contributors. But, as a result of the pandemic, it was not the business area of the company that grew the most, precisely because during the pandemic we had Uber Eats, which, thanks to deliveries, grew a lot . At the moment, mobility is finding its way back to recovery and growth.
Is the core business already Uber Eats?
It’s not. Right now we are very divided. Before the pandemic, the core business was undeniably mobility. Uber Eats has grown a lot during the pandemic…
How much did you grow in Portugal?
We do not disclose this data.
Continuing to Madeira would have had a “very negative impact” for Uber
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With the current limitations of Uber’s activity in Madeira, the platform does not intend to return to the autonomous region, from where it left in May 2021. The departure took place after the regional government approved an adaptation of the TVDE law with changes that Uber considers to be “clearly penalizing” their activity. For example, the number of cars – which, according to Manuel Pina, exceeded 180 vehicles – was limited to 40. And each operator could only have a maximum of three vehicles to operate. “This is a clear limitation to the growth of a private activity,” criticizes the boss of Uber.
The “conditions” would, according to him, have a “very negative impact” on the activity of the platform, if he had chosen to stay, namely in the “user experience”, which would see the waiting time increase ( due to reduced supply). Drivers, on the other hand, should “travel long distances and then make shorter trips”. “These types of conditions would not benefit anyone and, naturally, would have an impact that would not make sense for Uber,” said Manuel Pina.
Doubled, for example?
We do not disclose this data. But again, at the moment, we are in a state where mobility has a very large and very important dimension, especially for the profitability of the company. Uber Eats distribution – which currently distributes much more than meals – has great potential in which the company is investing. The future is rather optimistic.
But how close is it to mobility?
Mobility and distribution have relatively similar importance within the company. And one thing is certain: we continue to pay a lot of attention to both parties. Lately we’ve even announced new campaigns that show the potential isn’t just in restaurant dining, but also in the delivery of supermarket, grocery, fashion, pharmacy items.
And had many drivers become couriers?
It is not a fact that we follow very carefully because what is important is that they have this possibility. And for a long time a driver could also deliver. But what is important is that access to both is facilitated. However, it is true that TVDE driver access takes longer than access to become a distributor or delivery partner. Because to become a TVDE driver you have to take training, you have to work for an operator and it’s not the same thing for delivery partners.
Although you cannot divulge any number of recipes, can you say if they evolve, in Portugal, above the European average or online?
We evolve according to the results in the rest of the world. Portugal is a country that has always been very important for Uber, from the point of view of acceptance. Users in Portugal have always been very well received by the solutions that Uber has brought to market, both in terms of mobility and delivery. Portugal is perceived, even internally, as one of the countries where we are most committed to innovation. It is no coincidence that we have set up an Uber center of excellence here, where more than 500 people work. This is not necessarily the case in all EU countries. We look at Portugal with a great prospect of growth, with great interest and with great priority because Portugal’s performance is not measured only in numbers, which are positive, but also in the innovation that we have managed to implement, in the acceptance we have and under the conditions offered by the market.
Travel is pre-pandemic, right?
Uber trips in Portugal are recovering, they have already exceeded pre-pandemic levels, but they are still not at the levels we had expected for 2022, and in this case we are still in recovery.
In the interview he gave to the Observer about two years ago, there was the idea that the user could buy Metro or Carris tickets through the Uber app. will you move on?
We’ve already launched the ability for people to plan their trip through the app. Obviously, the expectation that we had at the time was different, before the pandemic. The pandemic forced us to interrupt some lines of work that we had to dedicate to others and we ended up being able, for example, to launch products that were much more relevant at the time, such as Uber Drop-Off and then Uber Connect , designed to meet the needs with the pandemic. But this remains one of our major interests: we believe that tomorrow’s urban mobility will be multimodal. And we at Uber should be able to provide those options. If I want to start my trip on Uber X and end my trip on the subway or train, I should be able to. In some cities we are already doing this. Obviously, there are certain factors in Portugal that do not allow us to launch this.