Saad Naveed Pall has recently taken over the role as the General Manager at Uber Pakistan, after serving as their Head of Marketing for two years. Earlier he had spent more than half a decade working at The Coca Cola Company, where he kicked off his career in Marketing. Overall he has had an experience of over 13 years across three regions: Pakistan, US and Singapore. Saad Pall has a Masters in Business Administration from Emory University’s Goizueta Business School in Atlanta.
Q.1: Tell us about your experience with Uber so far. What’s the journey been like?
It’s been three years at Uber for me now. What I’ve experienced is an organization that is committed to the communities it operates in, and it has been an educational and exciting journey. Having lived and worked in Pakistan as well as Singapore and the U.S.A, I firmly believe Pakistan has the potential for industries to grow and thrive. Uber is an organization that realizes that and not only plays a major role in providing safe, convenient, and reliable transport for thousands of riders in Pakistan but also is a major contributor in providing earning opportunities for the citizens. Uber strives to create an impact on its community, and being a part of that has been an exhilarating experience.
Technology Driving Uber Ahead in the New Normal
Q.2: Which areas in Pakistan does Uber currently operate in, and what role has it played towards the local economy?
We offer mobility services to nine cities in Pakistan right now and have tens of thousands of drivers registered on our network. Currently Uber has seven products operational in multiple areas: Uber Go, Uber Mini, Uber X, Uber Moto, Uber Auto, Uber Delivery, and Uber By the Hour. All of these combined bring convenient transport and economic opportunities to multitudes of people in Pakistan, adding exponentially to the local employment statistics. Uber drivers have more access to earnings that bring flexibility and independence.
Furthermore, we focus on constantly innovating and utilizing technology and resources to diversify our services in order to further enable communities to be better connected and mobile. For example, Uber Delivery was launched while the country was under lockdown, in order to facilitate our riders with basic necessities while creating additional economic opportunities for drivers during challenging times.
Q.3: How has the Covid-19 pandemic in Pakistan impacted your business in this community, and what initiatives have you taken to ensure safety for your riders and partner drivers?
The greatest drawback about the Covid-19 pandemic was how unexpectedly it arrived and spread worldwide, with a global impact that no one could have prepared themselves for. Operations in Pakistan were impacted due to government directives, and the driver and rider demand went down significantly with the work-from-home measures being implemented everywhere. For months we have proactively urged people to stay at home and prioritize their safety and that of the drivers who were available for essential trips.
However, in the new normal, we have innovated and adapted our core business model by introducing solutions that we hope will continue to offer value post-pandemic. While the economy is reopening and operations are starting to normalize, expectations for safety and hygiene are much higher and greater investment is being done in technology that puts more people at ease.
Uber has invested $50 million globally to help ensure every driver on the platform has access to safety kits and personal protective equipment. Rider and driver safety is our priority and there are a number of measures we have taken over the past few months to try and ensure safe transport for all, which included introducing facial recognition technology to ensure the rider and drivers were wearing masks. Our policies were updated where we announced sick pay to our drivers. We also removed the penalty for cancelling a ride by either the rider or the driver, in case the other was not wearing a mask. In addition to this, highly active Uber vehicles are also being installed with plastic in-car separators to add a layer of protection between the riders and drivers.
To serve the community, Uber Medics was launched during the peak of the pandemic in Pakistan, where we provided free and discounted rides to the frontline medical staff and NGO workers who were struggling with finding transport during the lockdown.
Q.4: We’ve seen Uber launch Uber Delivery and Uber Medics during the lockdown in Pakistan. What kind of response did you witness from these new services, and do you plan on diversifying further in the future?
For Uber Medics, we partnered up with twelve different organizations in Pakistan, including the Pakistan Red Crescent Society. Over 50,000 doctors, nurses, and healthcare workers benefited from this initiative. People have genuinely appreciated the effort made in order to recognize the doctors and other workers fighting on the frontline. Similarly, Uber Delivery was launched to facilitate people during an unprecedented situation and it worked well for the drivers as well, giving them an opportunity to earn during an economically difficult time.
Q.5: You are a tech-based company and believe in innovation and technological advancement in your products and services. Do you believe the recent pandemic has opened up a new door for digital services in Pakistan?
With the recent pandemic, what we have witnessed is a digital revolution in Pakistan all over. While online shopping, digital banking and other services were only starting off in the Pakistani business landscape earlier, the pandemic fast-tracked the process and we see industries adopting digital practices to a large extent now. Being a tech-based company, Uber takes pride in using its technology to improve and cater to the continuously evolving demand in the market. For example, we recently introduced Uber by the Hour, which enables riders to book a ride that is charged by the hour and can be used for multiple stops. We added a security PIN feature in the app as well that can confirm the authenticity of the driver who comes to pick the rider up.
The digital transformation that the country is going through currently opens up a wide array of opportunities for businesses and will play a major role in the overall progress of the economy.
Q.6: What kind of potential do you see for Uber in Pakistan, and what plans are there to merge Uber and Careem to sustain your business portfolio in the long term?
In terms of providing convenient movement to our riders and economic opportunities for our drivers, Pakistan poses an immense opportunity and business potential for Uber. There is still a large segment of the market that remains untapped and we are committed to using our technology and expertise to further provide ease of mobility to the wider population at affordable price points. As far as the merger with Careem is concerned, the two are currently functioning as separate brands.