Uber cuts 25% of India workforce as virus halts growth

Move is part of a broader Asia rethink in global restructuring driven by pandemic

Each affected Uber employee will receive a minimum of 10 weeks’ payout and medical insurance coverage for the next six months, and will be added to the Uber talent directory, the company said. Photograph:  Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Each affected Uber employee will receive a minimum of 10 weeks’ payout and medical insurance coverage for the next six months, and will be added to the Uber talent directory, the company said. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

 

Uber is cutting 25 per cent of its workforce in India as the US ride-hailing group grapples with severe strain from the coronavirus crisis in its biggest market in Asia.

The move to jettison the 600 jobs is part of a global restructuring in response to the health crisis that involves the closure of 45 offices and a total of 6,700 jobs being cut. It comes as the technology company rethinks its position in Asia more broadly.

Uber has been hard hit by India’s harsh coronavirus lockdown, during which all public transportation including taxis and private car-hailing services were suspended for weeks.

“The impact of Covid-19 and the unpredictable nature of the recovery has left Uber India SA with no choice but to reduce the size of its workforce,” said Pradeep Parameswaran, president of Uber India and South Asia, in a statement. 

The cuts, which make up 20 per cent of the second tranche of 3,000 job losses outlined by chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi last week, mark a further retreat in India after the sale of Uber Eats to local rival Zomato in January.

The company has been shrinking its Asia footprint more broadly. Uber last week said it would close its Singapore headquarters, which it opened only in April last year.

Uber had maintained its Singapore office as a regional hub that demonstrated its commitment to Asia after it sold its businesses in south-east Asia and China in recent years. In addition to its ride-hailing business in India, the company still has operations in Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

On Tuesday , Uber said it wanted to move its regional headquarters to Hong Kong, but needed first to see regulatory progress. The semi-autonomous Chinese territory is a profitable market for the ride-hailing group even though it operates there in a legal grey area. 

Expanded

Despite the job cuts, India remains one of Uber’s most important markets in Asia. The company has expanded rapidly in recent years in the country of 1.4 billion people, where it has a hundred thousand drivers on the roads. Last year it recorded a record 14 million journeys a week.

But coronavirus has slammed the brakes on that growth. Though the US group has been permitted to resume services in some Indian cities, demand remains muted as the outbreak worsens, particularly in big urban centres such as Mumbai and New Delhi.

Ola, India’s homegrown rival to Uber, has also responded to the disruption of its business with job cuts, this month slashing 35 per cent of its workforce – about 1,400 jobs.

Many drivers have been hammered financially by the protracted suspension of services, living on their savings or going into debt to survive.

Each affected Uber employee will receive a minimum of 10 weeks’ payout and medical insurance coverage for the next six months, and will be added to the Uber talent directory, the company said.

The company has been shrinking its Asia footprint more broadly. Uber last week said it would close its Singapore headquarters, which it opened only in April last year.

Uber had maintained its Singapore office as a regional hub that demonstrated its commitment to Asia after it sold its businesses in south-east Asia and China in recent years. In addition to its ride-hailing business in India, the company still has operations in Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Legal grey area

On Tuesday Uber said it wanted to move its regional headquarters to Hong Kong, but needed first to see regulatory progress. The semi-autonomous Chinese territory is a profitable market for the ride-hailing group even though it operates there in a legal grey area. 

Despite the job cuts, India remains one of Uber’s most important markets in Asia. The company has expanded rapidly in recent years in the country of 1.4 billion people, where it has a hundred thousand drivers on the roads. Last year it recorded a record 14 million rides a week.

But coronavirus has slammed the brakes on that growth. Though the US group has been permitted to resume services in some Indian cities, demand remains muted as the outbreak worsens, particularly in big urban centres such as Mumbai and New Delhi.

Ola, India’s homegrown rival to Uber, has also responded to the disruption of its business with job cuts, this month slashing 35 per cent of its workforce – about 1,400 jobs.

Many drivers have been hammered financially by the protracted suspension of services, living on their savings or going into debt to survive.

Each affected Uber employee will receive a minimum of 10 weeks’ payout and medical insurance coverage for the next six months, and will be added to the Uber talent directory, the company said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2020