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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Uber hopes to evolve and escape uncolourful past with new chief

Ride-sharing company's reputation has suffered after a number of scandals

Uber hopes its new chief executive can restore its reputation, which was tarnished by founder and former-chief executive Travis Kalanickis. Marlene Awaad / Bloomberg
Uber hopes its new chief executive can restore its reputation, which was tarnished by founder and former-chief executive Travis Kalanickis. Marlene Awaad / Bloomberg

The ride-sharing app Uber has been a pioneer in revolutionising the transport sector globally. It has disrupted conventional ways of doing business. But it has also been on a choppy road since its inception.

The embattled company is reported to have approached Dara Khosrowshahi, a prominent Iranian-American immigrant, currently the CEO of Expedia, to become its new chief executive.

That decision comes in the wake of scandals and litigation that have marred the reputation of the US$70 billion company and led to the removal of its founder Travis Kalanick.

Uber learnt the hard way that inclusiveness and diversity are necessary in today’s world. Sexism and racism have no place in the workplace.

Mr Kalanick, Uber’s outgoing CEO, also learnt the hard way, that his association with president Donald Trump, as part of a business advisory group, was not acceptable to customers who oppose immigration policies that discriminate, single out people according to their faith and promote racial profiling.

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Read more:

Uber said to hand chief exec spot to Expedia's Khosrowshahi

Uber shrinks loss to $645 million even as ride-hailing company faces turmoil

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Under pressure, Mr Kalanick quit Mr Trump’s council because the indignation of customers went viral; in today’s digital age, no business can ignore negative publicity – which in the case of Uber turned into a boycott of the company.

The takeaway from all of this is that America was built by immigrants. Silicon Valley would not exist were it not for immigrants. Beyond software engineers, possibly some of the most innovative globally, many of the top executives in the tech metropolis are foreigners.

Google’s CEO is from India, Alphabet's president (and Google co-founder) is from Russia, Tesla’s founder is from South Africa, the creator of eBay is from Iran, Yahoo’s co-founder is from Taiwan. These are just a few examples behind companies changing the world we live in.

It is worth noting that between 1995 and 2005, 25 per cent of high-tech companies founded in the US had at least one immigrant founder, according to Forbes. According to the US small business administration, an individual immigrant is about 10 per cent more likely to own a business than a non-immigrant. Immigrants were involved in founding a quarter of companies that went public between 1990 and 2005, according to the National Venture Capital Association. Moreover, a third of the companies that went public between 2006 and 2012 had at least one immigrant founder.

Uber’s job offer to Mr Khosrowshah, arguably a swipe to the alt-right movement, white supremacists and president Trump, is a step in the right direction.

Let it be a lesson to other companies. They would do well by embracing diversity, tolerance and meritocracy as cornerstones of doing business.

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