Uber is in the spotlights with its supposed market value of $50 billion. Uber labels itself as part of the sharing economy. Recently, sharing economy guru Rachel Botsman did a good job in getting clear in terminology by defining Uber as being part of the on demand economy: it is a platform that directly matches customer needs with providers to immediately deliver goods and services.
Last week the California Labor Commission didn’t accept the point of view that Uber is just a platform that acts as a simple middleman that matches people looking to buy a service with others that are providing it. The commission ruled that Uber drivers are to be seen as employees and Uber should take the full responsibility as an employer.
The attention for Uber however must go beyond the discussion of protecting drivers as employees. Uber is more than a disruptive taxi company that challenges the regulator-protected world of taxicabs. It is a tech company that applies very smart coding in order to give customers what they want: an instant match on their needs.
Regulatory authorities should face reality: driven by the process of a broad adoption of the smartphone an economy is created that is all about ultra speedy deliveries of products and services by using online platforms. Uber is only one of the striking examples of this new economy.
A quick look at the headlines of today’s (June 23rd) news illustrates this point:
Alibaba announces that it invests $1 billion into a new online-to-offline (O2O) joint venture. Alibaba is China’s and maybe even the world’s biggest online retailer. Together with its subsidiary Ant Financial Alibaba reanimates the brand Koubei that will serve as the central hub for the company’s O2O services. Koubei will focus on food deliveries first, but will soon expand to other goods and services.
In the Netherlands Bol.com, the number one online Dutch retailer, announces a partnership with Albert Heijn to be able to offer ‘same day deliveries’ of goods ordered on its online platform. Albert Heijn, also known as AH, is the biggest Dutch supermarket chain with nearly 900 stores in the Netherlands and represents the bricks and mortar part of the partnership.
For my daughters, being both millennials, it is a no brainer that it is all about speedy deliveries. Last Saturday afternoon they designed online a customized postcard for Father’s Day that was printed and delivered by traditional snailmail on the Sunday.
What these examples show is that consumer demands don’t fit in the 9 to 5 schedule of the traditional, old economy. Regulating the labour side of the new economy by the principles of this old economy, is burying your head in the sand.