Uber — A Product Management Case Study

How Uber can turn profitable

Introduction

Cab hailing services such as Uber and Ola are under pressure to show returns to their investors. At the same time, drivers regularly beseech the operators to give them a larger share of the revenue pie. And customers are always looking for ways to reduce transportation costs. This article is an attempt to look at alternate ways that Uber / Ola could use to generate more revenue and reward customers at the same time. The added revenue could then be used to create driver reward programs.

Understanding the Challenge

A user’s engagement with a car hailing app such as Uber or Ola is typically only till the point of booking and subsequently boarding the cab. Once the ride begins, a user ‘context switches’ to talking on the phone, surfing the net, listening to some music or catching some shuteye. If the cab is an UberPool or Ola Share, there is little to no interaction between the fellow travelers.

Research Methods

I extensively traveled by UberPool over a period of 2 weeks to observe and interact with other users. During the ride, I spoke with the fellow passengers and asked them a few questions. The purpose was to determine the basic ‘pain-points of people traveling by shared cabs. I used the responses that I got to come up with ideas that would take away some of the pain points.

User Personas

Needless to say, there are several types of riders, with varying needs, who use a shared cab. I decided to focus on the more common user persona that came out during my research. This would help to design a feature for a specific customer segment.

About: (Rahul Kumar, 30) Rahul works as a project manager with a large software company in Bangalore. He lives with his wife and 5 yr old daughter. He has stayed in Bangalore for more than 6 years now. For his daily commute, he has to travel to Electronics City which is a 21km ride one way. Rahul owns a hatchback which he drives on the weekends. To travel to work and back, Rahul prefers joining a carpool or taking a shared cab. Rahul usually listens to some music while traveling to work.

Quote: “I like using shared cabs as it helps me save on my travel expense. I wish the routes could be optimized so that long detours are minimized.”

Goals / Needs:

· Save on daily transportation costs.

· Time spent during the commute should be less dreary.

Pain Points:

· Not always possible to join a carpool due to varying departure times.

· Shared cabs can at times be quite expensive.

· Deviations along the route to pick up co-riders can make the journey long and boring.

User Journey

Business Goals

  • Increase engagement of the users while a ride is in progress
  • Introduce a new way to monetize the existing user base
  • Improve loyalty among customers towards car hailing platform, thus increasing ridership

Feature Overview (About the Idea)

Giving co-passengers the option of playing simple games from within the Uber App, would allow opportunities for passengers to make new friends while also increasing the monetization avenues.

• When a rider begins a UberPool or Ola Share ride, he / she is given the option of playing a mini game from within the app.

• An example would be a trivia-based game having multiple categories such as sports, movies, history, politics etc. Each game would have multiple rounds lasting for a set duration.

• Riders traveling together can either play individually or join forces as a team. Playing as a team would naturally increase the chances of winning.

• The opponents would be other Uber/Ola riders from across geographies. Only people traveling in an UberPool cab at that point in time would be allowed to play. The moment the ride ends, the option to play would be disabled.

• Games will typically last for 5–7 mins, thus ensuring that the game is completed before the ride is over. This would also allow the rider to play a quick game and then switch to making a call or texting someone before playing another game.

• The team with the maximum number of correct answers would win the game. The reward points from winning a game would be split between all the players on the winning team (i.e. all riders riding together if they choose to join and play as a team).

• Higher points = rise in level of the player (fancy titles?), thus incentivizing a rider to play more. Of course, the reward points could also be tied to some discounts on the rides. For instance, 100 points = $1 off on your next ride.

Press Release

I would like to take a cue from Amazon, which uses the “working backwards” approach, where the product manager writes an internal press release announcing the product before it has actually been developed. The idea is to be able to visualize the desired end state while focusing on the customer problem. Here is how a press release, talking about the new feature, would look like.

Sample Future Press Release

User Stories & Acceptance Criteria

Storyboard

I made a visual storyboard to show how users would explore the new feature. It helped me outline the app and visually imagine it.

Wireframes

Following wireframe designs represent the skeletal framework of the app. I have kept it minimalist so that I can quickly test the idea without diving into the implementation details.

Screen 1: Uber Gaming World button is enabled within the Uber app
Screen 2: Option to start new game or join an existing game
Screen 3: Question displayed on screen

Monetization

There could be a couple of approaches towards monetizing this feature.

1. Advertising

Since there will be no charges for playing the mini games, advertising could be one approach to monetizing the feature. Most mobile games show some forms of advertisements such as banners or interstitial ads. As these generally are a bit annoying (an interstitial ad can take over the entire screen), content based native ads can be considered.

2. Freemium

The UberPool Multiplayer Gaming World can include gated features. Thus, there would be a category of free to play games and a section of games that users will have to unlock (either through purchasing or by redeeming reward points) to enjoy the full experience. If the riders see value in the feature, they would be tempted to pay for the additional content.

Final Thoughts

The idea behind this exercise was to formulate an approach to generate an additional revenue stream for companies such as Uber and Ola. I have proposed a social gaming feature which could create a community experience. The pain points highlighted are based on my own experiences while traveling in a shared cab and my interactions with fellow travelers. Additional research will have to be conducted in order to refine and validate the solution.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed this case study or have any feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at x17sourabh@iima.ac.in or connect on LinkedIn.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store