Ubermensch

Zarathustra defined this person as someone who was willing to risk it all to save humanity. Today, however, I had a pleasant encounter with someone who was literally an Ubermensch: someone working for Uber. I had gone to Ahmedabad to learn things, do errands – and the return trip was halted thanks to a few canceled rides. On getting a cab, therefore, I just felt gratitude and an immediate rush to sit in the vehicle and get going. I wasn’t in a particular hurry or anything. There were no deadlines awaiting me on campus. In fact, it was the exact opposite. The evening was marked aside for hobbies and things I had procrastinated – things I would complete in my own sweet time. I was ready to sit in the car, listen to some music, fall asleep – wake up on campus and get going again.

That was not to be. Instead, I was greeted by the biggest smile, called “Tejasbhai” right off the bat. Thus began my 45 minutes with Iqbal. He initiated conversation: asking me where I was from and what I knew of my home city – and proceeding to talk to me about Uber itself. I’ve held a longstanding fascination and admiration for the company, and when driver-partners are willing to engage in conversation, I try to understand their motivations and the company culture as much as possible. From my experience thus far, most driver-partners are disillusioned by the model at present, but stick with it because they’ve committed to it. A large portion of their discontent stems from the fact that when Uber rolled out in India, the company paid out several incentives – and made promises of continuous earning streams that would match this throughout the time that a driver-partner was registered with the application. However, as time passed by, and Uber gained enough of a driver-base to no longer have to spend as much as they were on driver-partner retention/attraction, everything faded away. Drivers’ earnings dropped. A lot of things have changed over the years internally as well, and drivers’ have complained about the way their requests and complaints get handled.

Today, however, Iqbal acknowledged that this may be the case for several individuals, but had never been the case for him personally. He told me his story: that there were bad customers, bad ratings, and weird interactions with the company, but that these were in the minority, and were a rarity. More than 90% of his interactions with Uber were fine – on all sides. When I pressed him about his motivations, he told me two things: first, the freedom & independence that Uber gave him, and second, the kind of job he did earlier, and how this was way better. I agreed on both fronts, but I was curious about earnings, so I asked him about them directly – since we had built a rapport. Iqbal explained something that has stuck with me throughout the day.

He explained, quite simply, that Uber was the kind of application where you got as much out of it as you put into it. You spend more hours driving, accept trips regularly, don’t cancel on them – and treat customers well – and you’ll get paid high amounts, be treated well by the company. The minute you start mucking around and acting picky about taking short trips, or rejected destinations – the company knows something’s most definitely up. That affects how they look at your profile, and by extension – you.

To me, the reason this stuck with me is because it’s translatable to so much of life. We all get what we put into life. Every day. Like Iqbal said: sometimes it’ll suck. But 90% of it turns out alright eventually. It motivated me enough for the evening & I didn’t procrastinate any of the work I had any further.

In fact, I’m still doing some right now.

I tipped Iqbal – and I hope that Uber will ensure the tip reaches him. I learned a lot from this Ubermensch.

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