Hey Uber Team,
This will be my last SEA research report for you all! A heads up: It is from the heart. 😀
TL;DR: Good bye Uber! Hopefully I will meet you in another opportunity in the near future! Thanks for the memories!
A. Research Findings:
The last 4 weeks have been tough for Uber drivers and employees in SEA. I captured these sad scenes in Jakarta and Singapore that happened as a result of our leaving:
• Drivers were confused on what happened (& would happen) to them. They visited our GL centers and but no one could answer their questions. We put our security people in a tough position since they also did not know how to answer drivers’ questions.
• Drivers were waiting in line for hours under the scorching sun to try to switch to Grab or Gojek.
• Some disabled (deaf/mute) drivers posted in online forums that they had effectively lost their jobs since Grab doesn’t accept disable drivers.
• Drivers who were older than 55 also lost their jobs since Grab doesn’t accept them.
• Drivers who previously had bad experiences with Grab preferred to join other (smaller) ride sharing players such as Anterin.
However, I am very happy that Uber does leave a good impression on them. They appreciated the work we have been doing for their life:
• UberMoto drivers paraded in their last ride in Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh.
• I received many texts and calls from drivers who wanted to thank Uber. Some even sent me goodbye and thank you videos
• They posted their driver profile screens as a nice memento of their long journey with us (kudos to driver profile team!)
• In many cities, Uber SEA employees voluntary held an appreciation day for Uber driver partners.
• Drivers gave many good comments about us: ‘I stayed up until midnight to see what will happen to the app’ ‘I carried a pen so the rider can sign on my jacket’ ‘I brought my wife and 3 years old kid to the parade today’ ‘I want to stay with Uber, even just for one more day because they always treat us right’ ‘I drive today as a farewell to my loyal friend Uber for the past 4 years’
I did not realize how much these interactions with actual Uber drivers would affect me (I even cried in my last Uber ride in Jakarta :p ). Working with and listening to these people for the last 2 years have really touched me. And while the positive feedback from above is certainly a sign of the good Uber could have on these people’s lives, there are some stories that paint a different picture:
• An elderly Jakarta driver cried in my interview room in the January 2016 Driver Earnings research session because he was not able to pay his daily car rental fee. He was too shy to tell his family that he could not survive with Uber job and chose to use his own saving to cover his daily rental while learning how to work with Uber.
• In Feb 2017 Driver Comms Research, a driver told me that he saw a text from Uber to “check his Alloy card”. He then went to a supermarket, trying to buy an Alloy card from but could not find one.
• In April 2017 Driver Community Research, I met a driver named Babah Eko who spent most of his time at night using a location sharing app to monitor other Uber Moto drivers’ locations. He did that for his friends (and gang) since it is not that safe to drive at night in Jakarta. He had seen many UberMoto drivers experience violence and motor cycle robbery.
• In September 2017 for Driver Earnings research, I met a single Vietnamese mother who was trapped in a car loan. She had a high earnings expectation of us due to our ads and decided to start car financing. It turned out that she was not able to pay her monthly car financing through Uber and needed to take 2 additional side jobs.
B. Research Recommendation
All of this research experience of meeting to our drivers and listening to their stories made me really respect their lives and struggles. In many of these moments, I also felt that we (Uber) didn’t treat them as well as we could have. We just saw them as numbers: # of drivers first trip, # of churned drivers, # of referrals, # of AnFT, etc.
I truly believe that we can do more to treat our drivers better. I hope that we can do more to see them as humans no different than you or me, trying to find a way to make a living and be happy, not simply as a vehicle for us to achieve profitability and an IPO as soon as possible.
However, in the last 2 years, I also have witnessed many good changes. Carbon Project is one example. Instead of focusing only on US drivers, we also spent our resources and time to listen to and try to understand the needs of those drivers in Jakarta, Cairo, and Bangalore – which compared to drivers in the US are less literate, less tech savvy, and may only earn as much as 10 USD daily.
While most of us earn at least a 6 figure salary, eat lavish dinner, and live out of 5 starts hotels when we do research trips (don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this perk and will miss it! :p ) – I think we should strive to and can treat these drivers who earn only 300 USD per month – 3600 USD per year, better than we do now.
And it starts with Uber continuing to get to know these drivers to better be able to stand in their shoes and live their struggles
C. What’s next for me?
Together with the Uber Moto Gang, I am saying goodbye to Uber as well. After living outside of Indonesia for more than 8 years, I have decided to move back home temporarily. I will try to discover a bit more about myself, my country, my people and how I can support them. I will also spend more time with my family and close friends, maybe for the next 1 or 2 years. Honestly, I am very anxious and terribly afraid. I am afraid about the salary cut I will get, Jakarta’s traffic, living in a conservative society, the collectivist nature of Indonesians, losing all the exciting research trips I had at Uber, and missing out on all the happenings on our team and Uber. Super freaking out! But somehow my gut feeling tells me that this is the right thing to do.
D. Thank You page
Lastly, I would like to say that I really enjoy working with you all. It has been one of the best 2 years of my life (not even exaggerating here!).
Big contributors to this great experience have been Susan (my former manager), Sas, my research team, and our allies – people in product, engineering, and operations who have genuine motive to create great products and services for our drivers.
Thanks! I have learned a lot from you all.
I hope we can keep in touch. Ping me if by any chance you visit Jakarta. You can stay in my place and maybe will get paraded with the ex-Uber Moto gang members from the airport. 🙂