Uber taxis are still not allowed inside Thiruvananthapuram International Airport while in many places such as airports, bus stations and railway stations they are not allowed to halt even for a minute by the local taxi drivers. Technological disruption has become a part of life across industry. Who carries a pager now or waits in a queue to pay a utility bill?
Uber doesn’t have its fleet of taxis but travellers with smart phones now first think of Uber when they think of hiring a taxi. Uber just developed a mobile app and roped in taxis to join its network and since it is a networked operation and the nearest taxi catering to a ride demand, effectively costs are much lesser than a conventional taxi ride unless it is peak hour.
The typical response everywhere was to protest against the Online taxis and cause trouble to them whereever possible. In most cases, government and government agencies intervened and ruled that Uber taxis have a right to ply in public places including railway stations, bus terminals and airports. No taxi drivers unions thought of launching their own mobile app and networking all their members and providing a competing service.
When Uber Eats, Zomato and other food apps came on the scene, most restaurants, fast food joints were quite eager to join and there was indeed good business. Thereafter, some food out slowly reduced accepting Food App orders because they straightaway took a comission of 25% per order. In Kerala, consumers won’t be able to avail the food app service because restaurants and fast food outlets will not accept such orders for the next ten days. This is in protest against the Uber move to set up a centralised kitchen in Bangalore and later on other cities. The idea is to build the business initially using the services of various hotels and then to have their own centralised kitchen to take orders from consumers. This will effectively kill the existing hotel and restaurant business, feels the industry.
I think the anxiety and apprehension of hotels business is a little misplaced. No centralised kitchen can cater to a large and diverse audience even in a small city. The overhead costs of mantaining such a large operation, catering to different tastes and likes of consumers will be a daunting task for Uber or any of the food app players. Secondly, in any city the diversity presented by various vegetarian and non-vegeterian outlets are so great that they themselves can think of having a mobile app that can beat any Uber or Zomato. All that they need to do additionally is to have a set of delivery boys or girls and ensure that the logistics works out in a proper manner.
For eg. the Kerala Hotel and Restaurants Association (KHRA) has a large number of members doing various types of food business. If these players can be integrated into an App then it could easily provide tough competition to any future attempt by Uber or Zomato.The strategy to compete with a disrupting technology is to repay them in the same coin and not fighting from outside. Whether it is online business, mobile app or artificial intelligence. Malayala Manoroma has reported that KHRA is already working on an food app which will enable all its members to benefit from the system and also prove to be a competition for existing Food Apps.
No amount of protests, agitations or putting pressure on government to thwart a new technology or business can help in the long run. Because ultimately everthing boils down to convenience of the consumers. They will naturally lean to something that gives value for money and eases their pain points whether it is convenience food, travel, online booking or financial services.
The same lethargy can be seen in some firms unwilling to switch from their legacy systems to advanced enterprise solutions. The fourth industrial revolution is happening at a much faster pace than the first three industrial revolutons. The big data, artificial intelligence, machine learing, virtual reality, augmented reality have all appeared before us long before we realised anything significant is happening in technology.
The magic in fighting competition is taking your action to that turf not crying foul by remaining where you are, this is if you are born tough. (Getting reminded of CEAT Tyres)