Driving with Uber: Setting the record straight

March 3, 2017 / Bangalore

Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of discussion about driving with Uber, and specifically driver earnings, incentives and whether we are committed to the driver community and to India for the long term.

We don’t want anyone to have questions about where we stand when it comes to our commitment to drivers. We stand with driver partners and are absolutely committed to India, and to continuing our investment in people, our product, and programs that drive positive change.

Here are the five most frequently asked questions about drivers:

What is your response to drivers protesting?

Firstly, I want to say on behalf of the team at Uber in India, we are sorry for the disruption that both riders and drivers who rely on Uber have experienced over the last few weeks. It has been a difficult time, and we are grateful for the strong support we’ve received from riders and drivers across the country, and to the courts and law enforcement in condemning the use of violence and intimidation.

Small numbers of individuals, who do not represent the majority of the driver community, have been preventing drivers who want to work from doing so. We have been communicating daily to drivers – through phone support, text and video messages and in person at our greenlight centres, where every day thousands of drivers walk in to resolve their concerns. 

Drivers’ individual concerns vary tremendously. We care deeply about their concerns and we can and will do better in our communications to reduce confusion. Last year we established uberSAMAAJ, our regular driver focus group discussions, which I personally oversee, where no topics are off limits. Activities are already taking place across five cities and we are rolling this out across more cities.

This year everyone on my team, including myself, has committed to personally responding and resolving driver queries and will be accountable for meeting targets on engagement and resolution.

How much does a driver make with Uber?

Driving using the Uber App is very different to working as a private driver, taxi driver or even, for example, a shop assistant, where people have set hours and set hourly wages. Uber is at heart an entrepreneurial activity. Earnings are not one size fits all.

Individual driver earnings vary widely and individual driver behaviour – where, when and how much or little drivers choose to drive – also vary widely, which makes averages difficult. Currently, 80% of drivers across India who are online for more than six hours a day make between ₹1,500 and ₹2,500 net, after Uber’s service fee.

The future of our business depends on making driving with Uber the most attractive choice. And as our business has grown over three years in India, we are seeing sustainable earning opportunities for driver partners and sustained interest in driving with Uber, with a 60 percent year-on-year increase in driver sign ups in January 2017.

How do incentives work? Have incentives changed and why?

Drivers earn money from fares paid by riders, but also from incentives (for instance a driver may earn a certain amount of money once they’ve hit a certain number of trips). These incentives vary widely by individual drivers. They are dynamic, as is our business model, and we are constantly seeking to understand, assess and improve both earnings from fares and our incentives structure.

Because Uber is a two-sided market, we need to balance the needs of riders and drivers. Uber rolls outs incentives and promotions to introduce the service in new cities. Without doing this, it’s hard to ensure drivers are compensated for their time when few riders are aware of the service. As more riders use Uber, drivers are busier and can earn more. This in turn attracts more drivers, which helps guarantee faster pickups for riders, and allows us to adjust incentives over time.

With sustained high demand from both riders and drivers we can shift from startup mode to a more sustainable business model and begin reducing higher levels of incentives, and invest more in drivers and our products for the long term.

Are drivers earning more or less now?

Driver earnings have evolved over time and while some drivers do earn less than three years ago, we believe that driver earnings in India are attractive for the majority even after reductions in incentives and drivers’ costs are taken into account.

Uber can’t serve riders or cities the way we want to without drivers, so we need to ensure at all times that the app is the most rewarding option for them to choose. But we also need to consider affordable prices for riders that allow the service to grow and drivers to know when they switch on the app, there will always be people looking for a ride. Striking a balance isn’t always easy, but without attractive earnings for drivers the service simply wouldn’t work.

We are watching carefully to ensure drivers do not get into difficulty with vehicle financing, especially after the recent violence and intimidation which prevented many partners from using the app.

Why do some drivers earn more or less than others?

We are constantly trying to help drivers maximise their earning potential, and we have invested significant time and energy listening to drivers. Here’s what they’re saying:

At the lower end drivers are more likely to

  • drive for shorter periods of time
  • drive outside of peak demand periods
  • drive in specific areas in their city
  • More frequently reject rides

At the higher end drivers are more likely to

  • prioritise driving at peak demand periods when incentives, and by extension earning potential, are  highest
  • drive the entire city
  • accept all, or close to all, incoming ride requests

We call drivers partners because moving cities is something we cannot do alone. We are listening. We can and will do better.