"What happened over the weekend in New Delhi is horrific," said Travis Kalanick, Uber’s CEO in a blog post. "We will do everything, I repeat everything to help bring this perpetrator to justice and support the victim and her family in recovery."
India is Uber’s second largest market outside the US, but the scary rape headlines have raised questions about its future. High-speed polling technology company Instavaani surveyed 1,118 respondents across all metros and found that 76 per cent of them felt Uber was to blame for the crime. Critics across social media slammed the firm for not carrying out the necessary background checks while hiring the accused, Shiv Kumar Yadav, despite a criminal record.
For PRWeek Asia, we asked Indian brand experts to weigh in regarding Uber's path forward, as well as the government response to the incident.
"Being a media darling, with no substantial backup, is a peril that some pop icons in the corporate sector don’t know how to deal with," said Dilip Cherian, image guru and co-founder of Perfect Relations. "The reality of doing business in India can be a rude awakening for many due to the complexities involved."
Uber's brand promise is about a comfortable, competitively priced ride in a vehicle that is in a decent condition, said Tripti Lochan, CEO of VML Qais. "Implicit in this brand promise is safety," she said. "But did DTC [Delhi Transport Corp] stop the service of all chartered buses plying DTC routes post-Nirbhaya [a reference the 2012 gang rape and fatal assault of a 23-year-old woman in Delhi]?
While holding Uber responsible for failing to check driver backgrounds is reasonable, the government's reaction is a classic kneejerk, she added.
Cherian agreed. "The government’s reaction, sadly, does not address the issue of women’s safety, nor of widespread document forgery and gaping holes in all procedures thanks to corruption. Nor does it make Delhi’s streets any safer."