Uber pretty much stunned Silicon Valley and the rest of the world when it chose Dara Khosrowshahi as its new CEO this morning. Most of the Western media termed it a “surprise pick”. That is because Khosrowshahi, a name that wasn’t even in contention until a week ago, tipped celebrity CEOs like HP’s Meg Whitman, and GE’s Jeffrey Immelt to the top job at the world’s most-valued startup. Now, who is Dara Khosrowshahi? And what made Uber’s board of directors fall for him unanimously? Also Read - Uber cab service resumed in 31 cities in India with new Lockdown 4.0 guidelinesAlso Read - Uber launches 'Uber Connect' package delivery service to rival Dunzo and Swiggy Genie
Khosrowshahi currently serves as the vice president and chief executive of Expedia one of the largest online travel companies in the world that operates properties such as Trivago, Hotels.com, Orbitz, HomeAway, Travelocity and CarsRental. 48-year-old Khosrowshahi has been at the helm of Expedia since 2005. In his 12 years at the Washington-headquartered firm, he grew its revenues from $2.1 billion to $8.7 billion. He steered Expedia in the face of rising competition from hot travel startup Airbnb, and ensured that his company was topping business bookings in the US. At present, Expedia is valued at $23 billion, and Khosrowshahi is widely regarded in travel circles for his focused leadership. ALSO READ: Uber to appoint Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi as Travis Kalanick s replacement Also Read - Uber to operate 'Essential' cab service to hospitals and pharmacy stores in 4 cities
Prior to his stint at Expedia, Khosrowshahi had served as the Executive VP and CFO at internet and media giant InterActiveCorp (IAC). He was later appointed as the CEO of IAC Travel, where he was instrumental in expanding the company’s portfolio of travel brands, including Expedia that IAC acquired in 2003. Subsequently, it was spun off as an independent business under Khosrowshahi. At present, he also serves on the board of The New York Times as well as Fanatics Inc. a sports apparel platform. It is not clear if Khosrowshahi would continue to serve on Expedia’s board or not, after he takes up the role at Uber.
Khosrowshahi, a Brown University graduate in electrical engineering, is a well-regarded leader. According to Expedia’s Glassdoor ratings, 93 percent of employees approve of their CEO. In 2015, he debuted on Glassdoor’s top-rated CEO list, and has continued to feature on it since then. He is known to be an efficient communicator who gets “stuff done” without much fuss. In his 2014 LinkedIn post titled Lessons in Communicating: Only the Truth Sounds Like the Truth, Khosrowshahi wrote, “As I have progressed in my career, communication is one of the aspects of my job that has become more and more important… I have also realized that effective communication is a core part of any executive s job. It is a vital part of getting stuff done effectively, and done as a team.”
He further wrote, “Some executives assume that, when they put forward a new direction to their team, everyone will simply adjust and execute. The truth is that if that executive has changed his or her mind in the past, the team won t execute, the team will hedge… If you want to change direction, make sure you mean it, make sure the change is worth it. If you are consistent, then your team will know you mean what you say. And they will go all in with you.” Given that the $69-billion Uber is struggling to change course, and come out of its much talked about organizational mess, Khosrowshahi’s thinking augurs well. ALSO READ: Uber a successful startup but morally challenged
One of the most interesting aspects of Khosrowshahi is his outspokenness about socio-political issues that concern America and the world. He, an Iranian-American whose family immigrated to the United States in the 70s, vehemently opposed President Donald Trump’s travel ban on Muslim countries (that also included Iran) in February. He tweeted then, “Standing up for our travelers and our immigrant roots. Expedia supports lawsuit against Trump s immigration ban.” More recently, he spoke about the violence at Charlottesville, Virginia that failed to stir the conscience of the President. “I keep waiting for the moment when our Prez will rise to the expectations of his office and he fails, repeatedly,” Khosrowshahi tweeted.
Now that Khosrowshahi is headed to Uber, he’d have to battle lawsuits, charges of fraud and mismanagement, allegations of workplace sexism and harassment, dissenting investors, and a low-on-self-esteem workforce. Additionally, he has to hire a COO and CFO at Uber, and also gear up for a fund-raise. An IPO could follow in the future, and that would leave Khosrowshahi richer by many billion dollars. The world is waiting for Uber to turn around.