Uber has done the strong-arm game before, but it is combining its typical bluster with strategic political efforts to gain a foothold in Tel Aviv.
U.S. taxi ordering app Uber is continuing to invest major efforts to break into the Israeli market.
Although Uber is in direct competition with Israeli rival GetTaxi, which dominates the domestic Israeli market in this field, it is aiming high and plans lobbying to change the law to allow private individuals to work as taxi drivers.
In recent months Uber has hired the services of the Pro Strategy public relations company to help it break into the Israeli market and compete with GetTaxi and the campaign management services of Moshe Klughaft who was responsible for Naftali Bennett and his Jewish Home parties successful Knesset campaign last year. Uber is also hiring the strategic consultancy services of Sefi Shaked, while senior media advisor Ronen Moshe, a consultant to many senior politicians, will replace the services of Pro Strategy.
In this way Uber, which has a company value of $18 billion, is taking matters a further step forward and taking on Israel’s traditional taxi stations and GetTaxi, which has an estimated company value of $2 billion.
A senior source in the sector explained to “Globes” that Uber’s main aim is to introduce its UberX service into the Israeli market and allow private individuals to work as taxi drivers and transport passengers. This is against the current Israeli laws governing taxis and Minister of Transport Yisrael Katz spoke out several months against any harm to the taxi sector.
Although the subject is currently on the back burner, the hiring of the aforementioned consultants is designed to get UberX backing in the Knesset and generate convincing lobbying in order to change the law.
The senior source explained, “There is planning to lead a public campaign to change the law and explain that everyone has the right to work and earn and that should not be restricted by current legislation. To compete in the existing taxi market is fine but from UberX’s point of view this is the focus. If it doesn’t work out then they’ll probably leave Israel.”
The source added, “It won’t be easy for them. Israeli regulation is not like the measures they are trying to lead in Europe. The Minister of Transport and the politicians are not about to mine the taxi sector which could shrink through UberX by dozens of percentage points.”
Uber said in response, “Pro Strategy was hired to former Uber Israel’s entry strategy with media support from Ronen Moshe.” Klughaft said that he is responsible for Uber Israel’s campaign management with Sefi Shaked who is responsible for consultancy.
GetTaxi’s public relations firm Dani Levy Communications said, “We are proud and mainly amused that so many veteran campaigners have been hired to oppose us. Even a thousand advisors, however selected they may be, cannot change the affection Israelis have for GetTaxi.”