Paying for an Uber ride in three continents

Uber is clearly the defining company of this decade. As of today, it’s available in 300 cities across 57 countries and counting. It is changing our lifestyle and the way we experience cities.

As a perpetual expat who jumps between three countries — United States, India and Kenya — it is incredibly reassuring to have a reliable, timely and fairly-priced ride, anywhere.

Building a local operation in Los Angeles is radically different from building one in Nairobi. To scale a company that operates in hyper-diverse environments requires juggling local regulation, payment infrastructure and operations.

Uber’s customer-facing app is coherent despite these localizations. A glimpse over my ‘select payment’ screen paints a microcosm.

In the US, the default payment method is obviously a credit card. (There are more than 2 credit cards per person).

If you take an Uber in India, the preferred way to pay is a popular prepaid wallet called ‘PayTM’. (25 million users).

And if you hail an Uber in Nairobi, Kenya, you may also pay with cash, a tactic Uber needs to apply in developing and frontier markets.

Most users will use Uber locally and never see the hard work that goes behind the scenes to keep the app lightweight and easy-to-use.

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