Uber has seen meteoric growth since its inception in 2009 as a ride-hailing startup by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp. The cab aggregator has rapidly expanded from being a small local aggregator to having millions of users all over the globe. The ease and simplicity of travel coupled with reasonable pricing as compared to public taxis has attributed to its global growth and fame. However, Uber has not been without it’s share of problems, the major ones beginning in 2014 and continuing to have disastrous effects on the company. 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
Although Uber has had multiple hassles even before 2014, these were usually small issues that were region-specific and were soon overcome with by changing or finding workarounds to local laws and regulations. However, in light of recent happenings, there have been a lot of revelations regarding the internal workings of the company leading to the beleaguered start-up seeing founder Travis Kalanick go on a leave of absence. Here’s a look at some of the worst moments for Uber and things that led to the company facing its current issues. Also Read - Uber to operate 'Essential' cab service to hospitals and pharmacy stores in 4 cities
February 2015: In February 2015, Uber admitted that in a massive data breach, most of its drivers names with car plates and passenger ride details were compromised. The announcement from Uber came months after the actual breach, leading to the company facing anger and public backlash for delaying the announcement and also for not having adequate security systems in place. ALSO READ: Uber board weighs CEO Travis Kalanick s leave of absence, mulls change in policy
All through 2015 and 2016, Uber faced multiple lawsuits in many countries all over the globe for treatment of drivers as well as non-compliance with local policies. This was also the time when the company supposedly began to “investigate” the rape case filed against an Uber driver in Delhi, which Uber executives have claimed to be a trick by rival Ola to bring Uber down.
December 2016: Uber launched the self-driving car program in 2015 but the service soon ran into trouble with authorities and had to be discontinued in California, where it was initially launched. After the shift to Arizona, an Uber autonomous car was involved in an accident, leading Uber to take corrective steps in the region. By March 2017, it had to completely abandon its self-driving car project.
January 2017: Uber’s problems grew in January 2017 after Uber continued to ply cabs in New York despite the New York Taxi Workers Alliance announcing a protest against the Trump administration’s ban on travel to the United States by citizens of specific Muslim-majority countries. The issue was taken up on social media where the hashtag #DeleteUber began to quickly trend with people questioning CEO Travis Kalanick’s involvement in the Trump administration. Millions of Uber users initially came together to delete the Uber app, though the issue soon died down and business went back to normal. However, this was only the beginning of Travis Kalanick’s woes. ALSO READ: Uber a successful startup but morally challenged
February 2017: Everyone was shaken by an Uber employee Susan Fowler’s open letter alleging sexual harassment at the organisation. She alleged that a manager propositioned her sexually and she was constantly harassed for sexual favors. The report also highlighted the lax HR policies and the focus on retaining “high performers” despite their loose morals and behavior towards employees. Investigations were launched and Fowler’s report brought out the sexism and negative working environment rampant in the company.
Though Kalanick sided with Fowler and promised to take steps against the manager, the attitude among company executives towards women was then highlighted in multiple reports. Many executives (including Kalanick) were visitors to escort bars and would over-indulge in alcohol regularly. A report also claimed executives would do illegal drugs and narcotics at company events.
In February, Uber also lost investors Freada and Mitch Kapor after the investors highlighted the inner workings of the company and published reports on their failed attempts to get Uber to start functioning more efficiently. Google too sued Uber and pulled out its investment. The lawsuit was for intellectual property theft where Google claimed Uber stole its ideas, through former executives of Google-owned Waymo, who left taking confidential information with them.
On February 28, during an Uber ride, Kalanick got into an argument with his driver when the driver questioned him regarding company’s low fares for drivers and a rigid, non-transparent structure. Kalanick was caught foul-mouthing and verbally abusing the driver. His actions embarrassed the organisation and Kalanick then issued an apology, promising to seek leadership guidance to do better justice to his role.
March 2017: Uber’s Greyball report came to light which showcased how Uber used a tool called ‘Greyball’ to bypass authorities in multiple cities in Europe and in Las Vegas. The Uber app is banned in these regions, but the company would use the tool to evade officials and continue to operate in the region. However, Uber defended the tool simply, claiming it only kept records of individuals and flag those who it deemed were low-rating passengers or those who could do potential harm to the driver.
Reports suggesting Travis Kalanick might officially step down began to emerge. Later in the month, Uber President Jeff Jones tendered his resignation. Soon after Jones, another top level executive, Brian McClendon put down his papers.
April 2017: Continuing with the spate of resignations, Rachel Whetstone, Uber’s PR head quit the company, confirming many of the allegations leveled against the male executives as well as the top level management. Uber also pushed back the investigation into its harassment report after US Attorney General Eric Holder requested a detailed investigation into all the reports filtered in post the Susan Fowler case.
Apple CEO Tim Cook too called in Kalanick threatening to remove Uber from Apple Store as the app continued to violate Terms and Conditions. As per details shared by Cook, Uber had installed a code in the app to check if users deleted and downloaded the app repeatedly on the same smartphone to take advantage of specific offers.
May 2017: Reports of an Uber executive reportedly investigating the Indian rape case emerge along with details of how medical reports were shared by the executive with Kalanick who did nothing to stop or control the behavior. Kalanick also stepped down as one of the key speakers at the Code Conference. Waymo at the same time alleged that Uber was poaching its top executives and creating a shell company to hire former Google employees.
June 2017: CEO Travis Kalanick goes on a leave of absence. The move has temporarily left the company without a CEO to oversee operations and day-to-day functioning.