Uber CEO always finds reasons to criticize his own company.

Uber CEO always finds reasons to criticize his own company.

Uber’s Journey to Profitability: An Inside Look at Dara Khosrowshahi’s Leadership


In May last year, I took a $51.69 Uber ride from my apartment in downtown New York City to the West Side facility where Uber was hosting its annual product event, Go-Get. The cost seemed exorbitant, but it was a stark contrast to the subsidized rides Uber used to offer under the leadership of its former CEO, Travis Kalanick. Those days of rampant growth fueled by venture capital seemed to be over, as Dara Khosrowshahi took the reins and set out to transform Uber into a profitable business.

Khosrowshahi’s mandate was clear – restore trust and repair the company’s tarnished reputation. Under his leadership, Uber embraced safety as a core principle, introducing innovative features like the ability to track rides, a “text to 911” option, and even driver selfies for verification. This emphasis on safety has paid off, gaining the trust of both riders and regulators.

Khosrowshahi’s grand plan for Uber is to become a comprehensive platform for all types of transportation and food delivery services. Much like Amazon is the “everything store,” Uber aims to be the “everything of motion.” This approach has proven successful, particularly during the pandemic when Uber Eats helped offset the decline in ride-hailing services. While profitability hasn’t been achieved yet, the company is moving in the right direction, as evidenced by the recent announcement of their first-ever operating profit.

One of the boldest moves made under Khosrowshahi’s leadership was the introduction of “Uber for Teens,” a feature that allows parents to trust their kids on unaccompanied rides. This move demonstrates the newfound confidence in Uber’s safety measures and the trust they have built with their customers.

In a candid interview with Khosrowshahi, he shared his thoughts on various aspects of Uber’s journey. When asked about the surge in prices and the potential impact on ridership, Khosrowshahi acknowledged that prices have increased but emphasized that this is necessary for the sustainability of the business and to ensure fair earnings for drivers. Despite the higher cost, the number of people using Uber continues to grow, with 130 million monthly users.

Another key aspect of Uber’s strategy is becoming a platform for multiple services. By combining ride-hailing with food delivery and expanding into new areas like flights and boat trips, Uber aims to create an all-encompassing operating system for daily life. Khosrowshahi identified drivers as the priority, investing in their experience and satisfaction. He believes that a happy driver leads to a better Uber ride, even if it comes at a slightly higher price.

While Uber’s main competitor, Lyft, has been struggling with financial performance and a lack of diversification, Khosrowshahi remains focused on self-improvement rather than getting caught up in the competition. He sees the real competition as the individuals who own one or two cars and aims to provide a compelling alternative that gradually reduces the need for personal vehicle ownership.

Safety, environmental sustainability, and innovation are also key pillars of Uber’s strategy. Khosrowshahi acknowledged the challenges in transitioning to electric vehicles and becoming carbon neutral by 2030 but expressed confidence in their progress. He stressed the importance of both user preferences and societal acceptance of gig work, highlighting that the flexibility it provides is desired by the majority of Uber drivers.

In terms of autonomous driving, Khosrowshahi sees it as a part of Uber’s future, but not for at least another decade. The focus now is on building a network that connects drivers and customers, with the potential to welcome autonomous vehicles once they are safe and effective.

Reflecting on his experience as Uber’s CEO, Khosrowshahi admitted that the public scrutiny has been challenging but also rewarding, given the real-world impact and the opportunities to build innovative solutions. He dismissed criticisms about his leadership style, emphasizing the importance of focusing on results and building a strong team.

In closing, Khosrowshahi expressed his hope that Uber’s legacy would be remembered as a once-in-a-generation company that transformed transportation worldwide. With a focus on safety, driver satisfaction, sustainability, and continuous innovation, Uber under Khosrowshahi is aiming to create a far-reaching platform that shapes the future of urban mobility.

Do you agree with Khosrowshahi’s vision for the future of Uber? Are you confident in the company’s ability to achieve profitability? Let us know your thoughts by sending a letter to the editor at [email protected].

This article appears in the October 2023 issue of WIRED.