Why Uberisation Did Not Occur
Uber had the early honor to become a symbol. Which start-up is not dreaming of becoming the Uber-of-something? Whether in real estate, pastry, hotel, catering, key-minute or men’s underwear … Supreme dedication, we even coined the terms “uberize” and “uberisation” to qualify the operating mode that made the success of the start-up founded in 2009 present in 70 countries and which now weighs 70 billion dollars in valuation.
Launched as a blitzkrieg, uberisation turns into a Vietnam war-like
Uberisation has quickly become the official fantasy of the new economy: the new digital wave replacing the actors of the old world and frees the markets for the consumer. The term was created in 2014. Three years ago, that is to say a century in the latitudes of Silicon Valley. And — so far uberisation — did not occur. Launched as a blitzkrieg, it turns into a Vietnam war-like.
First there was an unexpected resistance. If Uber has undeniably disrupted the market standards — bringing new paradigms as smiles, clean vehicles, candy and bottled water, scoring an another approach to racing more in favor of the passenger — it has not knocked down the enemy. The Darwinist hypothesis of replacement of taxis by TNCs has not yet worked. The incumbents make resistance. Some even found new vigor because the arrival of Uber has taken them out of their dogmatic stupor.
Then the free electron has discovered the existence of social reality. The accusations of sexual harassment and sexism led investors to push Travis Kalanik, the charismatic founder of the company, to the exit last June. Today the company has to deal with a haemorrhage of drivers who spend at Lyft including a direct competitor more attentive to drivers. Just as the threats of withdrawal from the city of London and Canada in particular force Uber to deal with “diplomaty” an “regulation.” Two terms that are not really part of his DNA.
Uber must now face … his own uberisation
And finally, Uber must now face … his own uberisation. This week Taxify, a young Estonian start-up, sets foot in Paris with the firm intention of dislodging Uber. Not only does it want to operate at lower prices but it also intends to siphon its drivers by offering them better conditions. A threat to be taken seriously because Taxify is the Trojan horse of Didi, the Chinese giant who wants to develop in Europe. And perhaps revenge for Uber’s failed attack on his domestic territory two years ago.
In short, for Uber, blitzkrieg degenerates into guerrilla warfare. The company aware of the danger has also launched a vast communication plan in France. A campaign of contrition, a strategic mea culpa that calls for customer loyalty for the journey that ends with #AvancerAvecVous (“Let’s move forward with You”). Still, it is difficult to understand where Uber wants to “move forward” precisely. Uberisation seems to be limited for the time being to be a “dégagisme” (a term coined during the last French presidential campaign to designate the « sweeping of the older generation » which eventually led to the coronation of Macron) with the mere objective to take the place of others and become the monopoly hoping to extract the rent.
Uberisation is at a standstill, deploying its energy to maintain its positions rather than trying to draw the future.
A cruel lack in ambition. We would be entitled to expect from a market liberator that he offers prospects, that he traces a path capable of stimulating the commitment of those to whom he asks to “move forward with”. New challenges related to mobility are not lacking. Uber could legitimately claim civic utility by acting to reduce our dependence on private cars, fighting against congestion in cities, expanding access to transportation to everyone, standing as an alternative to public transport, solving the “last mile problem” … But today uberisation is at a standstill. It deploys its energy to maintain its positions rather than trying to draw the future.
This week, the contrast was striking. While Elon Musk, send us in space delivering the details of his plans to colonize Mars or to make every point of the planet accessible in less than an hour, Uber for its part remained embroiled in regulatory issues, stuck to the ground.