The people behind the wheel: Lucía Chavarri’s story, Cabify
For the latest instalment of Intelligent Transport’s exclusive ‘The people behind the wheel’ series, Lucía Chavarri, VP of New Business at Cabify, discusses why it is important to think about what the city requires above individual needs when working within the transportation sector, as well as provides insight into the future of ride-hailing and how technology can be leveraged to enhance safety and sustainability in the industry.
Can you tell us a bit about your role at Cabify?
My journey at Cabify started seven years ago, always focused on New Business. Right now, as Vice President of New Business, I oversee a team that looks for mobility alternatives outside of Cabify’s core business – ride-hailing. Be it through partnerships or operated internally.
At the end of the day, what we try to do is to complement the mobility platform with alternatives that specifically contribute to Cabify’s goal of sustainable mobility.
What inspired you to seek a career in the transport industry?
Truth be told, I didn’t specifically look for something in the transportation sector. I started in the consultancy world and, from there, I started my own company, a dating app. When that project finished, Cabify’s opportunity came along. I loved the project, and I fell in love with the company’s perspective on mobility and what it was trying to achieve for cities and for users.
Cabify was in its early stages at the time and was looking for someone who could be an internal entrepreneur like I was. Someone who could look for new business opportunities from the inside and that added value to the core business. I loved the challenge that this represented, the outcome that could happen from that opportunity and loved it. And so, it happened.
Have you experienced any challenges in your role and, if yes, how have you overcome them?
I do really love the role that I have at Cabify because it is entrepreneurship within a company that is very marked by entrepreneurship. New business means continuous innovation and being on the lookout for new projects. The challenge is to create new things without being the core business, which is normally the focus of every company. That in itself entails many challenges from the point of view of resources given to you and how many people you can count within your team.
One of the biggest challenges was to look for projects, innovate and get money, resources and people to invest in them”
I joined Cabify, as I said, seven years ago, and the company has been in existence for just over 11 years. When I joined, it could still be considered a start-up in many ways, so when I started a new department, one of the biggest challenges was to look for projects, innovate and get money, resources and people to invest in them. Step by step, we have been able to incorporate new projects and business divisions that have managed to establish themselves and that have allowed us to grow from a small department of four people to more than 70 people at a global level.
I think that, itself, speaks volumes. When you prove that something works, the company bets on it.
Has a career in transport changed your perception of the industry as a whole?
Working at Cabify has made me realise the real impact that you can have on people’s lives, on the city and on citizens”
Yes, absolutely. I think that, in the transportation sector, we take it for granted that things normally work in cities. Before starting to work at Cabify, I lived in other countries where the transport system was not as good as what we have in Europe, for example. It was not so obvious that either public or private transport worked properly. Either private transport was very expensive or public transport was very bad. It took me two hours to get to work and another two to get home every day. And, you see, the fact that the transport system doesn’t work properly is a huge conditioning factor in your life. That’s when you realise that transport is something that is very basic but, at the same time, very conditioning.
Working at Cabify has made me realise the real impact that you can have on people’s lives, on the city and on citizens.
What would be the top three highlights of your career in the industry to date?
To mention a couple, the Cabify moto project was a magnificent project. Through it, we managed to create a very relevant asset-sharing ecosystem based on our own assets through strategic alliances with third parties. We started from scratch with our own mopeds, which we then complemented with the Wible car-sharing service, and now we also have the Cooltra option in our app, so that our users can now have more mobility options.
Also, another wonderful project took place during the pandemic. When COVID-19 hit and people’s mobility was greatly reduced, we, from New Business, launched a delivery service in less than a month to try to save the blow for drivers. People needed to receive things but couldn’t move from their homes. We re-directed everything that we had in place from a technological and people-transport point of view to the transport of objects.
In less than a month, we managed to launch a delivery service, which today has become a new business division focused on logistics: Cabify Logistics. For instance, in Latin America, this division has more than 5,000 customers.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
I see myself working on the 5.0 version of Cabify. A version in which mobility is mostly electric, zero-emission and covers the needs of different users and cities.
What key pieces of advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career in transport?
It’s very important, first, to focus on having an impact on the city…You have to think about what the city needs if you want to be in the transportation sector”
I think it’s very important, first, to focus on having an impact on the city. You have to go beyond your personal situation, beyond what you use or what you need. You have to think about what the city needs if you want to be in the transportation sector. You have to understand, in a more holistic way, the needs of the city itself.
Secondly, you also have to understand the particularities of each region and each city. The needs of the city are not the same in Madrid as they are in Santiago de Chile or Bogotá. The particularities of each city must be understood.
Finally, regulation should not be an impediment to innovation. If you limit yourself to the way that things are, there would be no innovation, because everything would remain the same. Innovation will then have to adapt to current regulations, but that should not be an impediment. Those are designed for the current situation and the things that already exist. It is important that businesses and administrations go hand in hand so that innovation does not stop, and we help cities to evolve to be better places to live in, while making people’s lives better.
In the future, what do you hope to see become more commonplace in the transport industry workforce?
I believe that the future of transportation lies in the collaboration between the public and the private sector. It is necessary to work together for a better future, focused on sustainable solutions that work to build better cities for people to live in.
In an ideal world, what do you hope the future of public transport will look like?
I see a sustainable mobility ecosystem, supported by technology that helps cities be better places for everyone to live in, leaving no one behind”
The mobility of the future will be sustainable, or there will be no mobility and no future. It is important that there are alternatives, that they are sustainable, and technology is key to making this happen. Public transport goes as far as it goes, and it is also important, in the future, that private alternatives are taken into account to complement the needs of citizens.
In this sense, technology is key, for example, to make mobility accessible to all. It is not just a question of age or disability. We all have needs at some point in our lives where we need accessible mobility. I, as a mother of two, can’t always get around as easily as I would like with pushchairs, backpacks, car seats etc. My mother, on the other hand, needs wheelchair-accessible transport. It is important that no one is left behind in the mobility of the future. No one should be left behind in the evolution of cities, and technology is the key to ensuring that this does not happen.
I see a sustainable mobility ecosystem, supported by technology that helps cities be better places for everyone to live in, leaving no one behind.
Lucía Chávarri is Vice President of Global New Business at Cabify. The Spanish company started operation in Madrid in 2011 and has become a multi-mobility technology platform in Spain and Latin America. Lucía holds a degree in Telecommunications Engineering from the Polytechnic University of Madrid. Her professional career at Cabify began in 2016, as Managing Director Officer, a position she held until becoming Head of New Business in Spain. After more than five years at the head of the new business department in Spain, Lucía took over as VP of New Business in June 2019.
Ride-sharing & Car-sharing