Uber’s Hired A New Top Tech Leader From Amazon But Is Losing Its CIO

A sign for the Uber ride share pick up area at Los Angeles international airport.
A sign for the Uber ride share pick up area at Los Angeles international airport. AFP via Getty Images

Uber Technologies has hired Sukumar Rathnam as its new chief technology officer (CTO). Previously a vice president at Amazon, where he headed product selection and catalog systems, Rathnam will start his new role on September 28.

Separately, Forbes understands that Uber’s CIO, Shobhana Ahluwalia, who had reported to Rathnam’s predecessor, Thuan Pham, has decided to leave. A source close to Uber said her departure is “very amicable” and that she had accomplished an incredible amount during her five-year-plus tenure. It’s unclear whether Ahluwalia was hoping to get the top technology role.

Rathnam’s arrival was announced internally on September 17 and first reported by The Information. He will take over several months after the departure of Pham, a veteran leader who resigned from the company in May just before it laid off 6,000 employees, or around a quarter of its workforce.

In a message sent to the company’s employees this week, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said he had gotten to know Rathnam well over a number of months and that he would be a great asset to the company and to its engineering teams.

Journeys on hold

The new CTO joins as Uber continues to grapple with the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has crushed demand for transportation. Its results for the fiscal second quarter, which were published last month, revealed that gross bookings in its core ride-sharing business were 73% lower than in the same period of 2019 on a constant currency basis and that overall revenue had fallen by 27% year-over-year, to $2.18 billion.


Although its ride-share business is suffering, Uber has seen demand soar at its food-delivery service: Bookings there more than doubled year-over-year, hitting $7 billion. Cost-cutting nevertheless remains a priority: Earlier this week, the company announced it would be reducing its staff in the U.K. by 30%.

Khosrowshahi will no doubt be hoping Rathnam can come up with smart ways to deploy technology fast to boost Uber’s efficiency and support its rapid growth in the food-delivery area, where the company has announced a plan to buy delivery-service Postmates for $2.65 billion. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Send me a secure tip.

Martin Giles

 Martin Giles

I am the editor of the CIO Network at Forbes, leading coverage of the rapidly evolving role of senior technology leaders. I also develop topics and programming for Forbes CIO events. Previously, I covered frontier technologies such as AI-driven cybersecurity and quantum computing for MIT Technology Review. Before that, I was a partner at a Silicon Valley VC firm that invests in enterprise tech, which I joined after covering the Valley for The Economist Newspaper, where I was a writer, editor and business leader for over 25 years. I am a graduate of Oxford University and hold an executive MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Follow me on Twitter @martingiles.

Paul Holland of Foundation Capital and the New York Times’ Mike Isaac join “Squawk Alley” to discuss Uber ahead of its expected IPO filing on Thursday. » Subscribe to CNBC: http://cnb.cx/SubscribeCNBC About CNBC: From ‘Wall Street’ to ‘Main Street’ to award winning original documentaries and Reality TV series, CNBC has you covered. Experience special sneak peeks of your favorite shows, exclusive video and more. Connect with CNBC News Online Get the latest news: http://www.cnbc.com/ Find CNBC News on Facebook: http://cnb.cx/LikeCNBC Follow CNBC News on Twitter: http://cnb.cx/FollowCNBC Follow CNBC News on Google+: http://cnb.cx/PlusCNBC Follow CNBC News on Instagram: http://cnb.cx/InstagramCNBC

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