INTERVIEW: Uber drives job growth in the Middle East

"Over 19,000 work opportunities have been created in the Middle East over the last two years with Uber," Palaniappan said.

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street is seen in this photo illustration taken in Madrid on December 10, 2014. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/Illustration/File Photo - RTX2EY5L


“Over 19,000 work opportunities have been created in the Middle East over the last two years with Uber,” Palaniappan said.

“When you think about moves to increase access to employment and create entrepreneurship, starting your own business along the lines of Uber is an incredibly powerful tool.

“I think we’ve seen such progress and innovation from governments on how Uber can be part of the solution,” he added. “That’s the reason our business has grown at the astronomical rate is has over the last year.”

Saudi Arabia’s investment in Uber was its first foray into the technology start-up market as part of efforts to diversify the Gulf Arab state’s economy and create jobs for citizens. PIF’s managing director will take a seat on Uber’s board, giving the Riyadh government direct involvement in the company’s decisions, according to a Reuters report.

In the ultraconservative kingdom, where women are not permitted to drive, Uber has proven particularly popular, not just as a mode of transport, but as a means for social change.

“We get comments from women all the time in Saudi Arabia saying that Uber has given them much more in terms of accessibility to transport options, a lot of them go back to school or back to work,” Palaniappan said. “For us, 80 percent of our customers in Saudi right now are women.”

Asked whether Uber provided the option of dedicated female drivers for women clients as other taxi services do in some conservative parts of the Middle East, Palaniappan said: “We don’t.” (If the app launches a service for female users – maybe called Uber Pink – you know where the idea came from.) More info