In India, it’s more a tech than a behavioural challenge: Uber Eats’ Beri

Forum Gandhi Mumbai | Updated on July 24, 2019 Published on July 24, 2019

Raj Beri, Head of Uber Eats’ Asia Pacific operations

Uber Eats entered the Indian market in 2017 and has since partnered with 20,000 restaurants across 38 cities. However, it has had to face a stiff competition from the likes of Zomato and Swiggy in addition to the regulatory headwinds related to online food delivery platforms. BusinessLine recently spoke with Raj Beri, Head of Uber Eats’ Asia- Pacific operations, to discuss the company’s India goals, regulatory challenges and opportunities in the market. Excerpts:

How is the APAC region performing so far?

Asia is the fastest growing region overall. Globally, too, three of our most performing markets are in Asia — Japan, Australia and India. APAC is seeing great growth and, hence, we are focussing on it. It’s early days for UberEats yet, but we are expanding.

Uber Eats recently partnered with Cafe Coffee Day in India. How do you plan to leverage that partnership? Can we expect more strategic partnerships?

We have launched it (this partnership) in different cities and brackets. So, we want to expand with it in India. Though it’s early days, we’re seeing a great response from Bengaluru and Hyderabad with this partnership.

As far as other partnerships are concerned, we’ve always had exclusive partnerships. Of the top 50 restaurants in terms of orders, 30 are in India, a lot of those are UberEats exclusive restaurant partners.

Do you see the global trade wars threatening growth?

I think what we’re actually seeing is, across Asia, more of discretionary spend is now on food that is consumed outside of home. So it’s actually a positive trend. Also, as long as the quality and the price remain stagnant, food is probably an area that’s a little bit recession proof. And so we’re hoping that this trend continues.

The National Restaurant Association of India’s recent report suggested a growth in the online food delivery industry. However, Uber Eats wasn’t on the top of the list for customers. Is this a cause of concern?

We’re very excited about our growth in India, we’ve grown tremendously over the last year. We have grown from six cities to 38, and we now work with over 20,000 restaurant partners. We have a strong Uber Rides brand in India, it is also one of our biggest investment markets globally. We’re focussed on organic growth in India, and South Asia.

Most aggregators are focussed on Tier-II and -III cities instead of metros. Is it because metros have reached a saturation level or is it because of competition?

I think it is because the potential outside the top seven/ eight cities is just as large. What you’re actually seeing presently is that the growth in these cities is actually much higher than anticipated. As opposed to some markets, where when you go to smaller cities, you have to basically create a behavioural change around people getting food from restaurants, that’s not the case in India. There is a demand for food outside of home. It’s more of the change where people get comfortable with technology. So that’s why I think you’re seeing such a growth.

What challenges do you see in India?

Challenges are more around technological support, network connectivity and payment options. Those challenges can reduce because they’re less about behavioural change and more to do with technology. I think the other thing is continuing to make sure that you have a broad view of selection across all your markets.

What about regulatory issues, especially concerns raised by restaurateurs?

In all the markets that we cater to, there’s actually not been defined regulations around the online food delivery industry and as a key member of the ecosystem, we are excited to be a part of the discussion. I don’t necessarily see them as problems, I see them as what’s different than other industries. For example, the ride-sharing market in India... there were already policies around the transport industry.

In the delivery space, it’s more of a collaborative process and it’s more where we’re being asked to come to the table with the other players to develop this policy. We’ve been a part of the FSSAI committee meetings in India. As far as the e-commerce policy is concerned, it is very early days. We need to have a thriving restaurant ecosystem in India, and so we need a policy which benefits both customers and restaurants.

Restaurateurs are not keen on heavy discounting and data masking. They perceive it as hampering their ability to grow. How do you look at it?

I think it’s pretty early days on these discussions, and we’re just happy to be participating with so definitely the restaurant association, us and regulators getting in a room discussing these issues together. They want more data, access to data and want to able to market more to consumers. Ultimately, we all want the same things. They’ve seen that they can drive more revenue with Uber Eats. I think it’s just that we need to also make sure that we’re providing those services. Now, the data piece and other pieces are big portions of what we’re focussing on.

Published on July 24, 2019
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