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Uber Buenos Aires Redux

Uh oh…

Uber Buenos Aires ReduxAbout four months ago I wrote a blog post detailing the reasons I thought there was no Uber in Buenos Aires, especially when they were launching in other, smaller South American cities.

That post generated some heated discussion in the comments from Argentine readers who took offense with some of my reasoning and pointed out what they thought were flaws in my logic. I disagreed.

Fast forward to last week… Uber posted a job listing for a General Manager of Buenos Aires (see below). It was starting to look like I might have to eat my words.

Luckily for my logic, while there is a job post, there is no definitive word on if or when Uber will actually launch here. Also, since I first posted, we have seen the (slow) addition of 4G networks as well as continued smartphone adoption. And to further backup one of my points, it has been reported that the four major taxi companies and union leaders are already meeting to plan their strategy to block Uber from entering the country.

So, was I right or wrong? At this point, only time will tell… And just for the record, I’m rooting for Uber.

Here’s the full text of their job posting:

The City General Manager at Uber is by far the most demanding position Uber has to offer; it requires such a degree of talent, guts and leadership that the right person is difficult to find. As the leader of Uber in each city, the GM is responsible for the development and growth of our business in Buenos Aires.

UBER’S CORE:
The core of Uber is in the city team, led by a General Manager. They make the magic that is Uber, a reality. It’s a big deal and the qualities and capabilities required of an Uber GM mean you are an incredibly intelligent, talented and highly sought-after professional. Sound like you?

WHAT YOU NEED:
This is first and foremost a role for a strong marketer, focusing on reaching new users and extending the Uber brand to the masses. But as the city lead, you’ll also be responsible for operational excellence and maintaining ‘Uber’ quality throughout the rider’s experience. Rider and Partner support, local marketing, supply chain management, service quality management, social media, PR — all of these sit under the GM. Continual improvement and a quality focus are the name of the game. We believe in solving local problems with local solutions, so understanding your market and delivering custom messages is important. This is where creativity meets analytics head on.

And it’s the cross of the analytical with the creative that makes the Uber GM an incredibly difficult job to fill. If you’re potentially one of the truly rare, gifted Uber GMs, we want to hear from you! Make sure to include an English version of your resume to be considered!

WHAT YOU’LL DO:

  • Initiate creative local marketing strategies and user growth campaigns
  • Manage deployment and quality of supply chain (i.e. Uber’s driver partners)
  • Represent Uber at local events and with local PR
  • Manage local regulatory concerns and local politics
  • Communicate product/process needs to HQ, work with product/engineering to deliver on them
  • Help scale our other cities through developing and sharing best practices
  • Continue to grow REVENUES and RIDERSHIP!!!

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW/HAVE:

  • 6+ years of marketing or operations management experience (not quite there? Apply for Community Manager or Operations & Logistics Manager instead!)
  • Data-driven decision mentality and sound business judgment through strong analytical thinking
  • Creative solutions driven mindset, with a *get shit done* attitude
  • Relevant experience in consumer service marketing is helpful
  • Stellar networking skills and the ability to make smart partnerships happen
  • Entrepreneurial DNA and fear tolerance of a honey-badger

PERKS

  • Employees are showered with Uber credits each month.
  • Ground floor opportunity with the team; shape the strategic direction of the company.
  • The rare opportunity to change the world such that everyone around you is using the product you built. We’re not just another social web app, we’re moving real people and assets and reinventing transportation and logistics globally.
  • Sharp, motivated co-workers in a fun office environment.
  • Monthly gym reimbursement.

COMPENSATION:
Full-time salary negotiable based on experience, and equity compensation plan.

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Uber Buenos Aires

UPDATE (4/12/16): Uber has started operating in Buenos Aires today amidst fierce opposition from the taxi drivers.

This past summer, we had a chance to use Uber (and Lyft) while traveling around Boston and New York, and it quickly became apparent why everyone loves the service. For less than the price of a taxi (in many cases), you get a private car to come right to your location and take you wherever you want to go. It’s all billed to your saved credit card, so you don’t even have to worry about having cash, let alone a wallet.

Uber Buenos AiresSo, first things first – before I get your hopes up, no Uber is not launching in Buenos Aires.

While they have built a loyal following in many cities around the world, Buenos Aires is going to be a near impossible market for them to break into. Just look at what we’ve got for them!

  • Bureaucracy: The bureaucracy here is horrible. Getting anything approved in this city will take years.
  • Low Credit Card Use: Credit card use in Buenos Aires is minimal. People do not want the government to know what they are spending and do not like the idea of being tracked. Do you know how many people do not have wireless toll readers and would prefer to wait and pay cash for exactly this reason? Having them tie their credit card to a car ride app seems very unlikely.
  • Poor Cell Data: Cell data coverage is horrible in Buenos Aires. Got a 3G connection? Lucky you. Keep that for your whole trip? Not likely.
  • Low Smartphone Penetration: While Android smartphones are on the rise, Apple products are near-impossible to get here. Does Uber make a Blackberry app? Of course not. They may have to for Buenos Aires though.
  • Strong Taxi/Remis Unions: The taxi unions in the city are quite strong and have a lot of political ties. Anything that takes away from their business will be met with fierce opposition.
  • Safety/Crime: Tell an Argentine that you’re getting into the private car of someone you do not know and they’ll think you’re absolutely crazy. It took my Argentine wife a little while to get used to this idea with Uber and Lyft – and that was in New York and Boston!
  • Insurance: Insurance here is tricky (like everything else). It’s very doubtful that Uber would be able to get insurance policies to cover their drivers like they do in many other cities around the world.
  • Financial Instability: Uber exists to make money. They’d like to be able to get that money out of the country. Argentina makes that very difficult to do. Plus, with the difference between the official rate and blue rate life is even more difficult.

So, no Uber in Buenos Aires for the foreseeable future.

That being said, we do have some alternatives, though they rely on simply improving the existing taxi system rather than replacing it.

For the past month, I have been using EasyTaxi and it’s proven to be a much better way to get a taxi than hailing one on the street (especially at peak times and in the rain). You simply open the app, set the pickup location on the map and click “Call Taxi.” You can even specify that you want a taxi with a big trunk. A driver will respond and you’ll see their name, car model, license plate and approximate arrival time.

It’s safe and simple, plus it’s cheaper than calling a Radio Taxi  as you do not pay the “6 meter clicks” extra that they charge. At the end of the trip, you simply pay the metered fare in cash like always. (SaferTaxi is a competitor app to EasyTaxi, and has just started to accept credit cards if you prefer that.)

So, is it easier than hailing a taxi? Yes.
Is it cheaper than calling a taxi? Yes.
Is it safer? A bit.

Do the taxi drivers like it? Yep. It costs them less per month than being a part of a Radio Taxi service.

Do they taxi unions like it? Nope. One of our drivers told us that union members have been booking trips and then issuing a fine to the drivers for using it. Ahhh… there’s always some friction when older more established and expensive ways get disrupted.

Know of any other services? Let us know in the comments.

UPDATE: Ok, so here is where EasyTaxi failed me – 9am on a rainy work day there were absolutely no taxis that would take my request. I tried with SaferTaxi too, and while they have a cool feature that allows you to “offer a tip” during peak times, no one took my $20-$30 peso tip. I think they have a lot less drivers than EasyTaxi as well.

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