"Uber's Israel launch was one of its most successful"

Jambu Palaniappan
Jambu Palaniappan

Uber MEA head Jambu Palaniappan: We want to launch uberX in Israel so private cars can operate as taxis.

One month after the official launch of the company's taxi ordering service in Israel, Uber MEA Head Jambu Palaniappan told "Globes," "The Israel launch was one of Uber's most successful anywhere in the world."

Palaniappan was first in Israel over a year ago to spy out the land and check out the potential in the local market after many people had already registered for the service even though it was not yet available in Israel. Palaniappan said, "One of the reasons we came to Israel was because of the major interest we saw from customers. I'm happy to come back today and see the product on the streets, and the positive feedback from drivers and passengers, and that the market was waiting for this competition."

It was the competition that was supposed to put the spoke in the wheels of Uber entering Israel's taxi hailing market from smartphone apps. The Israeli market was dominated by local company GetTaxi but it seems that discounts for passengers and the discontent of some drivers who now had the opportunity to work for a rival have worked in Uber's favor.

Palaniappan said, "Meanwhile the results are very strong. For drivers the alternative employment has improved their world. Although these are preliminary results stemming from our market entry strategy we are absolutely satisfied with them."

The next step is to expand beyond Tel Aviv. "Within a few weeks we will reach Jerusalem. It will happen very quickly but it is important we remain focused and that the user experience will be reliable. We already provide taxis in Tel Aviv within 5-6 minutes."

But Jerusalem is only a small part of Uber's large plans. "We want to expand the product and are checking out the possibility of launching uberX in Israel," relating for the first time to the service that would let private car owners transport passengers for money. This has been Uber's main revenue engine in the US but is illegal in Israel. He said, "We are excited by the potential of UberX and it is clear to us that there is an opportunity here to bring more options to the market for efficiency and to take advantage of unexploited assets such as private cars. We are still checking out our next step in this matter."

Taxi drivers and GetTaxi are unhappy about this development while government ministries are slowly coming to terms with the topic. In recent weeks there have been several discussions on the subject and there have been demands by drivers that want to work with uberX. Such drivers would be required to pay taxes on income and get extra insurance. Palaniappan said, "I still can't say if such a service will be approved in Israel but there is major interest from drivers and customers. In any case they'll always be a place for regular taxis in Israel as part of our strategy."

Speaking about GetTaxi and their attempts to stop drivers working for Uber, Palaniappan said, "We believe that drivers need many options. It's interesting that GetTaxi said to drivers that they had to choose - that's not a smart way to get the market to boom. We don't believe in forcing drivers to choose."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on September 29, 2014

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2014

Jambu Palaniappan
Jambu Palaniappan
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