Feel small and do jugaad, Uber CEO’s success mantras for startups

The company he co-founded barely six years ago may have quickly become the world’s largest on-demand taxi-hailing service but Travis Kalanick believes entrepreneurs must “feel small” even when they become big.

Travis Kalanick, also the CEO of San Francisco-based Uber, feels also that India has vast potential for growth and that Bangalore will be one of three global hubs for innovation.

Addressing students at IIT Bombay in a fireside chat with media entrepreneur Ronnie Screwvala, Kalanick said the culture at Uber should be that of an entrepreneur. “I’m trying to create an entrepreneurial culture in a place where even if we get big, we still feel small,” he said at the end of his India visit.

Uber, Kalanick said, has something called ‘Always be Hustling.’ “I come to India, talk to the team, say how do you say hustle in India, they say, jugaad. So now we’ve got a thing here which is the Uber India model: Always be jugaading,” he said.

Kalanick said he is optimistic about India. When Uber entered India in 2013, he said, it faced challenges on several fronts: do people have smartphones to hail a cab? Do people have financial instruments to make payments? Do people own vehicles?

“People didn’t have cars, cards and smartphones. Financial instruments was the most challenging of all of them. But that is changing rapidly,” he said. The opportunity over the next few years is going to be “off the charts”, he added.

Uber, like in other countries, has rapidly expanded in India. Last year, Uber said it would invest $1 billion in its India business.

The company’s market share in India has risen to 40 per cent in January this year from 4 per cent a year earlier, Kalanick said.

He also said that R&D and innovation are no longer restricted only to Silicon Valley. “There will be global technology, innovation hubs in the world: Bay Area, Beijing and Bangalore.”

The startup environment and ecosystem in India has grown over the past 10 years, he said. “The startup funding environment has gone global. You used to have to depend on people in your local community to get funding, but now you have global investors whose main thing is investing in India.”

This was Kalanick’s maiden trip to India, where he took part in the government’s Startup India initiative. During his time in India, Uber tied up with the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to launch an initiative ‘Invest India’. The company also launched ‘UberExchange’, a startup mentorship programme. 

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