Uber CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick may have 99 problems to worry about, but his local competitor’s controversial proposal to gain foothold in the market isn’t one of them.
Taking a jibe at Ola’s Bhavish Aggarwal’s recent remarks that the Indian government should favour local companies, Kalanick says if people have an issue with his US citizenship, he would love to become an Indian.
“If it is about whether I am personally Indian, I will apply to be a citizen of India if this’s what gets us over the hump,” Kalanick joked with NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant at a press meet Thursday. Phasing out of the joke, Kalanick reminded, “We were always local from the beginning – but when we went to India and China we just had to take it to the next level.”
Last week, Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal and Ola CEO and co-founder Bhavish Aggarwal said the Indian government should make changes to its policies to protect and favour homegrown companies.
“It’s much easier for non-Indian companies to raise capital because they have profitable markets elsewhere,” Aggarwal said at Carnegie India Global Technology Summit last week. “You might call it capital dumping, predatory pricing or anti-WTO but it’s a very unfair playing field for Indian startups.”
The remarks by Aggarwal stirred a debate among VCs and people alike, with some questioning whether Ola is an Indian company after all as it has raised a lot of money from foreign companies. Using calculated words, Kalanick also pointed that out.
“Our competitors have also raised enormous amount of capital, we have operations globally and we bring capital for our global operations,” he said.
“At the end of the day both companies have taken so much investments that vast majority of my company as well as vast majority of Ola is foreign now.”
The global ride-hailing company Uber doesn’t have as big of a presence as its local rival Ola does in India. Uber is currently serving in 29 Indian cities, while Ola is present in 102. In the aftermath of selling its China business to Didi Chuxing, Uber has grown more interested in India and sees the country as its next big market.
On a week-long trip in India, Kalanick has been visiting different cities to meet government officials and have a close look at how India’s transportation system works. Earlier this week, Kalanick announced bike-sharing service UberMOTO availability in Hyderabad.
In a wide-range chat with Kant and media last evening, Kalanick, whose company is yet to turn a profit in India said they see the company making money in the long run. “We see the path to profitability in India and we feel pretty good about that,” he said.
Earlier this week, Kalanick said his company’s operations in India also creates hundreds of thousands of driver opportunities and jobs.
Jokes aside, it won’t be unprecedented for a CEO to apply for Indian citizenship as a business move. AirAsia’s Group CEO Tony Fernandes received his Overseas Citizen of India status earlier this year, which is equivalent of being a Non Resident Indian. AirAsia had commenced its India operations in 2014.