SAN FRANCISCO: Barney Harford is the brand new Chief Operating Officer of Uber, the ride-hailing tech firm, and even before he takes up his post in January he has signalled major changes, including the company’s approach to marketing.

Speaking to the Financial Times, he said he was determined to “bring a dose of financial discipline” to the deeply loss-making company, which reported losses of $1.5bn in Q3 2017.

“For now we are going to be disciplined in how we run the business, we are going to be seeking opportunities to go and engineer cost out of the system,” he explained. “But we are also going to be super-aggressive in terms of growth. Both are possible.”

Harford, who was formerly the CEO of travel company Orbitz, also revealed that Uber would handle more than 4bn rides this year – for the first time, surpassing the number of passenger airline trips taken globally.

That statistic alone emphasises the rapid rate at which Uber has grown since its formation just eight years ago, yet its wide spread across more than 600 markets has also created problems.

Its numerous markets have typically operated with a high degree of autonomy, leading to operational “silos” and inefficiencies that Harford wants to clear up.

Marketing spend – including the promotions, discounts and subsidies offered to drivers and riders – is another area that has tended to be controlled by local Uber markets.

This also needs reform, Harford indicated, as he said he planned to introduce a more methodical approach to discounts and promotions, which “may not have the short-term sugar high” of the deals Uber was known for in the past.

Instead, he said he would concentrate on deals that generate more loyalty among drivers and riders. “This is a business that has been run week to week,” he said. “What we really care about is enhancing our performance in the medium to long term.”

Meanwhile, quite apart from the internal challenges Uber faces, the threat from one of its main competitors moved up a gear after Didi Chuxing, the Chinese ride-hailing group, announced a new round of investment funding worth $4bn.

According to “people close to the matter”, the new investors include Japanese communications group SoftBank and Mubadala Capital of Abu Dhabi.

The Financial Times further reported that the investment will help Didi pay for a huge fleet of one million new-energy cars as it seeks to challenge Uber across international markets.

Sourced from Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff