Big Ben got UBER’ed
6 July 2017 | Share it on social networks
A story on how the Multi-Billion dollar Tech Company took the City of London.
It was the 17th of December and I needed to fetch my relatives at Heathrow Airport. Christmas was in the air and parties were at every nook; London’s street was busy with shoppers, tourists and pub goers were enjoying the festivity of the season. I had three options to pick them up.
First was to shuttle all them in the tube then take a bus and then walk, which was a hassle considering the tons of luggage and boxes of gifts they had.
Second was to call the city’s famous Black Cab which is convenient but 18 miles for 40 minutes would cost £46-£87.
And third was to simply open my UBER APP on my phone by clicking that “Request UBERX” button and that would only cost £35-£47.
And I chose UBER, for the same reason other Londoners have incorporated UBER to their lives with 30,000 people downloading UBER every week. The company termed this “the conversion”. UBER is simpler, faster, cheaper and better. Once you open the App, the Black and White Logo of UBER appears and fades into the City Map then shows the drivers available in your area. Giving you the sense of reliability, and for me, the question “how it started?”.
It all started when a Scottish Banker named Richard Howardwas made redundant from HSBC and got hired as the 51st employee of Uber Technologies Inc. on February 2012. Howard was the first “launcher” in the City of Big Ben and was tasked to recruit and find drivers.
Being the 11th City Uber moved into, Uber Technologies Inc. had to approach the Big Ben differently because of its Taxi Fleets and well diversified mass transportation with complex streets & regulations. Kalanick, Uber’s CEO at that time, personally flew to London to discuss the plan with Howard. Kalanick’s plan was to put Mercedes S classes Cars on the road and compete with City’s Black Cabs.
Big Ben’s Uber start was humble. It kicked off from a one-room office at the King’s Cross Road. The challenge ahead was tough but they were able to round up a group of Mercedes S-Class and BMW7 Chauffeurs by making them an introductory offer of £25 an hour whether they got bookings or not, plus a free iPhone. By mid of June 2012, Uber London started its first day with 50 drivers on the UBER App Platform. They booked only 30 trips but it’s a “This is it” moment for them. People started using the application; it was the beginning of “the conversion”.
Big Ben’s UBER started as a luxury brand aimed to compete with the London’s Black Cab but it was slow. They spent weeks riding on London’s Black Cab and tinkering on possibilities. And one afternoon, in Kalanick’s room at the Sanderson Hotel, Covent Garden, Kalanick said, “Let’s make UBER cheaper”, although it was a bad idea and would make the brand less classy. But coming months, the company trialed the budget service, UberX, in San Francisco, and it took the world.
Now UberX has been changing the way on how Londoner’s travel from point A to Point B and it couldn’t get any better. I myself am still a fan of the TUBE and the Big Red 2 Decker Buses; but somewhat I am happy to know that any time there is a Tube strike or I am stuck in the middle of the night at some place; Big Ben’s UberX Driver is always available and one-click away. Truly I can say I am “converted”.