Uber: The lost business opportunity

At Whatisitwellington Ian Apperley says the fuss over Uber operating in New Zealand is a fight between dinosaurs and exciting new business models: The War on Uber in New Zealand: Dinosaur business models meet new tech.

He writes:

… the Taxi Federation would be better working on new technologies for its members rather than engaging in a propaganda war with Uber, and while it may win this battle, it risks losing the war.

Along the way Apperley tells anecdotes, making a number of good points. Here he is on the rort where drivers pay a small fortune to install mandatory cameras:

I asked a driver one day what they cost to install and he told me about $2,000. $2,000. You can buy these things, with an internet connection for $200. Someone is making a pretty penny out of those installs. You don’t need a camera in the Uber car. You are tracked in real-time and you have the driver’s photo.

Apperley is a Uber fan. He thinks the company is good news for consumers and drivers, leaving the cartel like Taxi federations in the dust.

Not everyone thinks so. Uber has a polarising effect. Look at the comments pinned to Apperley’s blog post republished in the NBR.

There’s a tendency to assume a new disruptive force like Uber is a good thing. The company brings an innovative approach to a market that badly needs a shake-up.

Uber is not the people’s friend. It aims to replace dozens of local monopolies and cartel-like operations with a globalised cartel-like operation. In the process it will create billionaires.

Never lose sight of that point, the people behind Uber are not philanthropists fighting for a better world, they are hard-headed business people with all that entails.

It might sound off in favour of competition when it suits its purpose, but Uber has a track record of anti-competitive behaviour.

And there have been stunning ethical lapses. It’s telling that the first comment after the story in the last link is from someone praising the company’s service.

If New Zealand’s taxi operators were smart, they’d have disrupted themselves getting an Uber-like product out before the US giant rolled up in this country. It may be too late to do that now. It would be good to have a local, better alternative to Uber in the same way TradeMe is a local, better alternative to eBay.

That’s the real lost opportunity.