Mobile ride hail company Uber is preparing to set up a shared services center in the Costa Rican capital San José amidst growing protest by local taxi operators, who are worried that Uber’s technology-aided service might push them out of business. The Uber Costa Rica service center will hire as many as 300 people over the coming months, providing support service for its drivers as well as customers across Latin America. San Francisco, California-based Uber has seven such centers elsewhere in the world.
The people it is going to hire will be fluent in both English and Spanish, and will carry out jobs such as customer service, data entry, and data analysis. Uber, which has about 300,000 subscribers in the Central American country, has reportedly set aside $3.5 million for the Costa Rican center.
According to Costa Rican press, local taxi drivers have decided to block roads in capital San José as part of their protest against the U.S. technology company.
Uber has long been trying to penetrate the Latin American market, where it operates in more than 20 cities. Last year, it partnered with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s telecom firm to expand its clientele.
“What better place than Costa Rica to establish our first Center for Excellence in Latin America,” said Uber Costa Rica General Manager Umberto Pacheco in a statement. “We’re very excited to be here and launch operations in this city that has a tradition of receiving innovative companies.”
According to Telesur, taxi drivers’ unions in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia are up in arms against Uber and are increasingly pressurizing the government to hound out the U.S. firm, while lawmakers in Uruguay are seriously debating whether or not they should ban Uber altogether.
Taxi drivers argue that they are unable to compete with Uber because of higher overheads costs such as operating licenses and insurance.
Uber chose Costa Rica over others, because it is a Central American country and is relatively free of drug-related violence. According to CINDE, Costa Rica’s investment promotion agency, service sector is creating an average 5000 jobs in the past few years.
“In 2014, 18 services projects established in the country, and in 2015 the number grew to 23 investment projects,” Irving Soto, director of investment promotion at CINDE, told Nearshore Americas. “The vast majority of them are shared service centers, customer support and engineering and design.”