On-demand transport – taxi apps – is a £5bn market in London. It's worth double that in the UK as a whole. Worldwide the figures are astronomical. From New York to Tel Aviv, Moscow to London, the way we move around our cities is transforming beyond all recognition.
We have technology to thank. The ability to match service provider with service user (driver with passenger) via apps running on smartphones at both ends of the transaction has proved to be an archetypical disruptive force in an industry that hasn't been known for innovation. Gone are the days of standing on a street corner in the rain, flailing your arms, hoping a free car will drive past.
It's been simple market economics – a better proposition by one player has led to a shift, almost overnight, of how this industry is accessed and experienced, with a dramatic increase in quality for the consumer.
The revenue at stake is significant, despite this not being an especially high margin industry. Consequently, competition for business is fierce. In London Addison Lee, Uber, Hailo, Kabbee and many more are out there vying with my business, Gett, for this lucrative work. We are growing at 300 per cent a year and we’re on track for $300m of global revenue by Christmas.
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The controversy around technology behemoth Uber has been intense – much too intense in my view. The questions over whether they are using an unregulated taxi meter or if their vehicle standards are sufficiently monitored are simply a matter for the regulatory bodies.
Such is the power of technology to harness market economic forces we must be wary of unintended consequences however; with power comes responsibility. Flooding a market with über-cheap labour – especially if it is only possible through disruptive technology – can be significantly more rewarding for the company behind it than for consumers, workers, or for the society being served.
Having said that, the arrival of technology into a very traditional space will almost always be positively transformative. In our market the next generation of travellers will grow up entirely comfortable and familiar with pressing a button on a mobile device, and something they want or need arriving in their hands in minutes. It gives the consumer phenomenal power. We will soon be consuming many more products and services in this way.
And that is where the future of transportation apps lies: diversification. We recently launched 'on demand' champagne via the Gett app. It's the kind of apparently strange business proposition – black cabs and champagne on the same platform – that would raise eyebrows at business school. But this is no flight of fancy: we're aiming to become the go to app for quality, life-enhancing products and services.
In a low margin, fiercely competitive marketplace such breadth is essential. However good our technology, however strong our growth, there is always the next competitor with their own innovation just around the corner hoping to steal our lunch.