Foreign businesses in Ukraine, such as Uber, look ahead to a post-war Ukraine
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
The war in Ukraine is still going on, but some Ukrainians are already thinking about what life could be like after the war ends, and so are companies that have operations there. Uber's CEO just paid a visit to Kyiv, and NPR's Tim Mak took a ride with him.
TIM MAK, BYLINE: Compared to Kyiv before the war, this night in the city is especially dark. Full neighborhoods of Ukraine's capital city lack power. Many traffic lights don't operate. And one of the main sources of light on the street are from passing cars - in this case, an Uber carrying the chief of the San Francisco-based rideshare company.
DARA KHOSROWSHAHI: I'm Dara Khosrowshahi. I'm the CEO of Uber.
MAK: In the back of the dark car, he said he's in the war-torn city to review the charitable work Uber has been doing in Ukraine, as well as to meet with local drivers.
KHOSROWSHAHI: We first focused on refugees, making sure that refugees who wanted to go to Poland, wanted to cross the border, et cetera, we provided free rides for them. We're working now with the Ministry of Culture to give transportation to folks who are trying to retain pieces of art and culture and restore those pieces of art and culture that have been damaged by the war.
MAK: The start of the full-scale war in Ukraine last February briefly stopped Uber's operations in the country. They were active in nine cities when the war started.
KHOSROWSHAHI: The government asked us to expand our services, and we wanted to be responsive. So we're now in 18 cities across the country.
MAK: There are unique challenges to operating Uber during a time of war. Nightly curfews, missile attacks, air alarms, cellphone disruptions and power outages all create problems for local residents when they might need to summon a ride the most.
KHOSROWSHAHI: The people here are super, super creative, but I can't say that there's a playbook for operating in this kind of an environment. We're just doing the best we can right now.
MAK: Like many other business owners, Khosrowshahi is starting to imagine what this country might look like after peace is established and the economic opportunities that might create. However, he said he hasn't been in any talks with Ukrainian businesses about acquisitions.
KHOSROWSHAHI: We'll worry about business after the war is over and after the Ukrainian people are victorious.
MAK: But he's confident that Western businesses will be eager to invest in Ukraine once the war is finished.
KHOSROWSHAHI: I would say that I'm very optimistic. You really do see the spirit of the Ukrainian people here, the resilience. But even beyond that, you see the entrepreneurial energy here.
MAK: The underdog story in Ukraine that's going on right now, he said, speaks volumes about the nation's ability to rebuild once it's all over.
Tim Mak, NPR News, Kyiv.
(SOUNDBITE OF PACHAKUTI AND YOUNG.VISHNU'S "JUEGO DE OLAS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.