Uber’s CEO says elderly people are fueling its efforts to ramp up food delivery in Japan

When Uber filed to go public earlier this year, the company told investors there were six countries on its to-do list.

Among those nations where the ride-hailing giant has struggled to gain a foothold is Japan. Now, however, Uber may have found an unusual way in.

Chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi told Bloomberg on Thursday that elderly people are some of the company’s most eager Uber Eats deliverers in the fledgling market.

“The elderly are actually signing up for Eats couriers,” he said. “Eats has been a huge success for us in Japan. It is going to be a very effective introduction to the Uber brand.”

His comments echo what the company has said about its food delivery businesses going back before its IPO, when it pitched the product to investors as one of the many levers it could pull to eventually begin turning a profit.

Yet Japan, alongside South Korea, Germany, Argentina, Spain, and Italy, have long been headaches for Uber’s primary flagship taxi business. Most recently, the company has signaled plans to operate through partnerships with cab companies, and thus potentially avoid the conflict with taxi drivers encountered in most every other country where it’s set up shop.

Uber Eats is also facing headwinds as delivery workers, like many of their counterparts around the world, seek to unionize in Japan in order to gain collective bargaining rights that they do not posses in their current status as independent contractors.

“It will take time, but we like what we see in terms of the potential of the market,” Khosrowshahi said. “The innovations that we are going to make in taxi here are going to carry around the world.”

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