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Global Uber Protests: Turning a Big Problem Into an 850% Boost in Business

Here's how Uber took advantage of the global traffic jam.
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Just one day before the World Cup, cab drivers in Rio de Janeiro staged a protest during morning rush hour. At the same time, cabbies in several major European cities also protested--in London alone, 10,000 cab drivers brought traffic to a standstill. 

The cab drivers were protesting Uber, the startup car service that has grown to operate in over 100 cities in 37 countries worldwide.

Despite the global traffic jam, Uber says it claimed an 850% increase in sign-ups compared to the week before. 

The San Francisco-based startup has been widely accused of operating illegally, charging its users as a cab company would, but without following the same licensing and fare rules. Angry cab drivers across Europe call for better government regulation of the car service. (In Paris, the traffic prostests were aptly called "Operation Escargot.")

Uber, as usual, defended its position and asserted its right to operate.

But the company did offer an olive branch in London: UberTaxi. The compay added the feature, which allows users to book and pay for the city's black cabs at the standard rates for Transport for London. (Of course, Uber's own drivers undercut that price).

The global protests provided an opportunity for Uber to continue to grow. And while Uber may be familiar to many of us, its visibility in Europe was (until yesterday) significantly lower.

Forbes sees the protestors as rediscovering "Streisand effect," whereby drawing attention to a perceived problem can actually make the problem worse for you. The protestors put Uber more blatantly on the international map, and most notably, they seem to have paradoxically increased its members. 

Here's the takeaway for your company: don't be discouraged by resistance or bad press. You can turn any conversation into an opportunity for growth, provided you do so at the right time. 

IMAGE: courtesy of Uber
Last updated: Jun 12, 2014

ZOE HENRY

Zoë Henry is an editorial assistant at Inc. She also serves as managing editor for the independent literature press, Atticus Review.




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