Uber, the ride-sharing service, has been in the headlines for the past few months for all the wrong reasons. December has been particularly bumpy and the company's growth might be faltering.
Last month, Uber managed to raise $1.2 billion in a fresh round of fundraising from investors despite being embroiled in a nasty scandal where a top level manager made hostile comments towards journalists that criticised Uber.
Another manager was also accused of stalking through Uber's exclusive tracking app, audaciously named "God View."
Naturally, the world questioned investors on why they would put their money in a company that's enmeshed in grave controversies like these. Greg Autry, a professor of Clinical Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, gave a profound answer. Explaining to the NPR.org, he said:
"They (investors) want somebody who's going to go out there and fight for their money. They're used to bad boys and that's sometimes what it takes to get stuff done in business. They want a fierce competitor that operates within not necessarily the letter of the law, but the reality of what you can get away with in the law."
But could the same "fight for money" attitude be hampering Uber's expansion plans?
Uber's Asian Report Card
After November's fundraising event, Uber said it would use the money to start operating in more Asian countries.
But a recent rape case in Delhi, the capital of India, has become a major roadblock for Uber. After the government banned the service in Delhi, Uber resisted but then apologised and agreed to stop operating in the city.
With that incident, Uber's reputation is significantly marred in India, one of the largest and most populous countries is Asia. But let's take a look at how Uber is doing in Asia:
Thailand – On Tuesday, the government set some bars on Uber's operations in the country because some of its cars were not registered, drivers didn't have proper licenses and their fares were not approved.
South Korea – Despite warnings from the government forbidding it to start operating in the country, Uber started offering its services in Seoul on Thursday.
Indonesia, Singapore and Toronto – Uber faces regulatory scrutiny in all these countries for forceful operation, driver licenses, fares or other reasons.
The issues extend to every other region Uber has set foot in. It launched in similar fashion in Portland, Oregon as well. The city authorities warned that their services would be deemed illegal but nevertheless, they went live. Nevada and California have also illegal operations. Uber was also involved in a court battle regarding operations in France, which gave a ruling in favour of the cab-service – the first ray of sunshine in several days.
The global legal battle is spreading like wildfire for Uber but how will that affect the company?
Unshakable Investor Faith
Uber seems to have captured the unshakable faith of investors despite its notoriety. Bloomberg is reporting that China's famous search engine Baidu is buying a stake worth $600 million in the firm. This will help Uber expand rapidly in China, the biggest Asian economy.
So what really works for Uber? It's ability to cater to customer demand in the most tech-savvy way possible. Also, it may be operating brazenly but that's exactly what sets Uber apart.
Experts say Uber should consider hiring "expensive crisis managers" or do the following:
"Admit the mistake. Fire someone. Be transparent on the solution. Put guidelines in place to assure customers that this can't happen again," Andy Kessler, a hedge fund manager wrote for the Wall Street Journal.
"Good products will continue to grow. Facebook had 12 million users when the News Feed saga hit. It had 400 million during the privacy crisis and 1.2 billion today. Uber isn't going anywhere but up."