Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Taking care of business

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Lots of new words and phrases continually enter the lexicon. “Going forward” springs to mind, now in prolific use instead of saying “in future” like we used to.

The Prime Minister is fond of saying “at the end of the day” and its usage is now widespread.

“At this point in time” entered the glossary many years ago and is still heard regularly, but is merely an affectatious way of saying “now.”

A new word we will have to come to grips with is “Uber.” According to my trusty old Chambers dictionary uber means prototype and the word is now being used as a brand name for an amateur taxi service. And so a painful change is in the offing for taxi operators with a system that effectively lets anyone become a taxi driver using their own car through a proprietary mobile payment and passenger matching system.

Rapid technological change is more often than not distressing for those affected and the outcomes are littered along the highway of broken dreams with companies like Kodak, Betamax and the former mobile phone giant Nokia.

As far as I am aware this new technology has not yet reached the Wairarapa, but I suspect it is only a matter of time. It is a disruptive element that threatens the taxi industry worldwide and has been greeted with outrage by the incumbents. The anger is understandable when you consider that taxi drivers have made significant investments in their vehicles and their licenses.

Those who welcome the competition however point out that New Zealand has the unenviable reputation of being the most costly place in the world to catch a cab, despite the industry being deregulated in 1989. Christchurch, Queenstown, Wellington and Auckland all rank in the top ten of having the most expensive fares in the world.

Incidentally, Uber does not do casual pick-ups. You cannot hail a Uber down in the town. You have to pre-register and order one through an app on your smart phone.

And so now “Uberization” has become a buzz word that applies to other ideas that use the uber-style of marketing services. This, by the way, is described as “trapping a series of innovative processes, phone-enabled geo-location payments and driver management distribution, into an app-accessible service.”

A bit long-winded, but likely to be a future formula for many forms of commerce.

The latest Uber service has surfaced in New York and involves standing in a queue for a customer who simply doesn’t have the time or the inclination. In the Big Apple Robert Samuel, the founder of The Uberization of has a team of “dudes” who wait in line for Broadway shows, sample sales, tech releases, popular nightspots and even brunch waitlists.

Samuel recently spent 48 hours outside an Apple Store waiting for the iPhone 6s for a client. He was first in line, slept in a fold-up cot for two nights, had pizza delivered to his spot and “snagged” $1000 for his trouble.

At this point in time and going forward, at the end of the day it’s not a bad way of making a living.

“No one can possibly achieve any real lasting success or ‘get rich’ in business by being a conformist” - John Paul Getty


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